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Durkan defends SDLP stronghold

Published 08/05/2015

Mark Durkan has held Foyle for the SDLP
Mark Durkan has held Foyle for the SDLP

Mark Durkan has easily defended the SDLP citadel of Foyle.

Despite ambitious claims from abstentionist rivals Sinn Fein that it could take the Derry seat, the SDLP actually upped its lead in the constituency.

A clearly emotional Mr Durkan choked back tears, as he praised campaign colleagues - in particular Pat Ramsay, who is coping with a grave family illness - for giving the outgoing MP his biggest ever majority.

"I believe the reason why I got an increased vote and increased majority is because people appreciate the honest and diligent representation they get at Westminster level," he said.

With 17,725 votes - or 48% of the turnout - Mr Durkan was more than 6,000 votes ahead of Sinn Fein's Gearoid O hEara.

Last time out, he polled 4,800 more than Martina Anderson, Sinn Fein's candidate in the 2010 general election.

A lower voter turnout - down from 57.5% in 2010 to 53.58% this time around - means the SDLP's victory over Sinn Fein is even more pronounced.

Although Mr O hEara claimed his party held its vote in the circumstances, he suggested Sinn Fein's refusal to take their Westminster seats might work against them in the Foyle constituency.

"Maybe abstentionism plays bigger here, I'm not sure," he said.

"There is an issue about Westminster, maybe it's the John Hume factor going back."

Nobel Laureate and SDLP founder Mr Hume took the seat in his home constituency in 1983, and dominated the scene for two decades.

Since he stood down in 2005, his successor Mr Durkan has retained the seat.

The DUP's Gary Middleton came third in Foyle with 4,573 votes. "Not bad for a 24-year-old," he said of the result.

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