Belfast Telegraph

No sign of election fatigue as political leaders first off the block in final appeal for votes

By Noel McAdam

There was no rest for Northern Ireland's political leaders as they hit the campaign trail for a final day - and went to vote themselves.

Most of the main party figures voted early in yesterday's General Election - and not always necessarily for their own parties.

Three of the leaders were at their respective polling stations well in time to avoid the torrential rain which threatened to put a damper on turnout overall.

But in many areas it appeared voters were not to be deterred, come rain or come shine.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein's Stormont chief Michelle O'Neill had both exercised their franchises by around 9am.

The former First Minister did not have to travel far from home in Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh where it was a racing certainty she voted for her former party colleague Tom Elliott of the Ulster Unionist Party.

The DUP voluntarily stood aside in the knife-edge constituency to give the UUP a stronger chance of fending off a resurgent Sinn Fein vote.

Mrs Foster also took the time for a tweet aimed at her own party bedrock: "Make sure you vote today to ensure NI has a strong team of MPs standing up for you. Wishing my DUP colleagues well," she added.

Mrs O'Neill, also up with the lark, descended on St Patrick's Primary School in the townland of Annaghmore, near her home in Clonoe - and predicted a good day at the polls for republicans.

"This is a chance for the electorate to come out and take a stand against Tory cuts and Brexit.

"The public are angry. They want to come out and take a stand," she said.

Meanwhile, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood was attempting to turn the weather to his party's advantage.

"It's only a wee shower," he tweeted.

"People went through a lot worse than that so that you could vote. Come out and vote SDLP."

The Foyle MLA was among those who went back to school to cast their vote - in his case accompanied by his wife Rachael and daughter Rosa in Londonderry at the Model Primary School in Northland Road.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann voted in Kells, Co Antrim and went to be photographed shaking hands with his party's candidate, Danny Kinahan, who was facing a strong challenge from the DUP in South Antrim.

Mr Swann then travelled to take pictures of most of his other candidates - and his daughter Freya - and again hit social media to remind supporters the polls were open.

It was getting on for lunchtime, however, before Alliance leader Naomi Long turned up to place her 'X' at St Colmcille's Parish Church on the Upper Newtownards Road - presumably for herself - as she aimed to take back the DUP seat she lost in 2015.

Accompanied by her husband, Michael, the Alliance chief wrote on Facebook: "Whatever the outcome, I am part of the best team in politics!"

While there was some speculation about voters suffering from election fatigue, it certainly didn't affect the party leaders.

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