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Emma Little Pengelly blames 'Stalford 1' leaflet distribution and voter 'misinformation' for South Belfast election failure

Voters left confused after 'Stalford 1' leaflets handed out wrongly, says ousted South Belfast former MLA

By Jonny Bell

The ousted DUP MLA Emma Little Pengelly has blamed voter confusion - caused by leaflets advising first preferences should go to her running mate and being distributed in the wrong area - for her failure to retain a second DUP South Belfast seat.

Leaflets for Mr Stalford, she claimed, were handed out in areas where voters should have been voting for her as their first preference.

She said at one polling station one person handed out leaflets and "misinformation" for "many hours" and that they would not leave.

"In an election where 25 votes separated Christopher and me this confusion was unacceptable," she said.

The former special adviser also hinted she may well run again to retake her seat.

In a Facebook post on Sunday morning, the barrister thanked those who turned out to vote.

She said: "I apologise to the voters in Stranmillis PS where Stalford 1 leaflets were handed out for many hours during election day and misinformation given out.

"Unfortunately this person would not leave. This should not have happened and there should not have been that confusion to you, the DUP voters.

"I can assure you I have raised it with the party. In an election where 25 votes separated Christopher and me this confusion was unacceptable."

She added: "We fought a hard campaign and the DUP vote rose to 9,000 in this election. The DUP was once again the biggest party in South Belfast.

"This time around I lost Nettlefield PS as recommended No1 Little Pengelly (in order to try and ensure both DUP candidates got a similar first preference vote to give us the best chance of 2 seats), despite this my first preference vote equalled last year's.

"Unfortunately, the rise in the nationalist vote meant even on this strong performance by both DUP candidates didn't get us two seats. I believe we will be able to gain back those two seats in the next election with your kind support."

Asked if he was party to the leaflets being handed out, Christopher Stalford said he had no comment to make on that matter.

He added: "I have been on the receiving end of an Assembly election defeat and I know how sore it is.

"There is always the temptation to look for blame and think it is unfortunate we did not get two seats and I wish we had. I wish Emma all the very best for the future."

Asked again if he played any role in his leaflets being distributed in areas which should have had 'Little Pengelly 1' leaflets distributed instead, he added: "These accusations have been made two days after the vote and after the heat of a campaign battle and I have no further comment to make."

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