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South Belfast: Bitter blow for Ruth Patterson as gamble fails against Pengelly

By Deborah McAleese

Published 07/05/2016

DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly also jubilant at theTitanic Exhibition Centre
DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly also jubilant at theTitanic Exhibition Centre
Sinn Fein’s Mairtin O Muilleoir topped the poll
SDLP candidate for South Belfast Claire Hanna at the count yesterday

Fireworks were expected in South Belfast with flag protester Ruth Patterson hoping to knock her former party comrade Emma Little Pengelly out of the running.

Patterson has made no secret of her animosity towards the Junior Minister ever since she was co-opted to replace DUP stalwart Jimmy Spratt instead of her.

This led to her resignation from the party and decision to run against Little Pengelly as an independent.

However, it was an embarrassing blow for the outspoken former Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast when she secured just 475 first preference votes, compared to Pengelly's 4,511.

Patterson failed to show at the count yesterday.

According to a source, she was "devastated" by the low number of votes and has threatened to quit politics altogether.

In comparison, a beaming Little Pengelly, dressed head to toe in bright red, swept confidently around the count centre waiting to be officially elected.

By late last night she looked likely to become the second candidate elected in the constituency. Sinn Fein's Mairtin O Muilleoir was first to be elected.

Christopher Stalford, Little Pengelly's party colleague looked tense as he paced the floor throughout the day, waiting to see if he had secured enough votes to gain a second seat for the DUP. Towards the end of the evening he was in a more confident mood as it looked highly likely that he would secure election.

The most relaxed candidate of the day was poll-topper Mairtin O Muilleoir. It was clear from the first count that he was safe, with 5,207 first preference votes, but he still had to wait until stage four to finally meet the quota.

Earlier in the day he and his election agents were slightly premature with their celebrations however. As they prepared themselves for a victory cheer, it emerged he was two votes short, much to his amusement.

When he finally reached the quota in the next stage he joked: "How do you spell elected?" as he tweeted his success. There were hints of animosity within the SDLP after it became apparent that deputy leader Fearghal McKinney was likely to lose his seat. McKinney was brought in to replace Conal McDevitt following his sudden resignation in 2013. At stage one, McKinney received 2,845 first preference votes, while his party colleague Claire Hanna received 4,516.

While it was an impressive result for Hanna, daughter of former Executive Minister Carmel and one of the faces of the SDLP's new generation, McKinney could also have secured a seat had the vote been managed properly.

A party source said: "Heads are going to roll over this. There is a lot of anger within the party about what happened. Let's just say we're not happy."

It was a challenging day for Alliance when it became apparent the party was fighting to hold its seat, which had been held by high profile party stalwart Anna Lo who stood down after becoming disillusioned with the pace of progress at Stormont. Paula Bradshaw, who polled over 3,000 first preference votes, was eventually elected late last night.

Belfast Telegraph

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