Belfast Telegraph

Transfers crucial for unionist EU contenders

By Rebecca Black

Ulster Unionist veteran Jim Nicholson was left with an uncomfortable wait last night as the European count was suspended.

Tallymen across the parties predicted that the long-serving MEP will be returned to Brussels today – although TUV leader Jim Allister was snapping at his heels.

It is expected that transfers from Ukip candidate Henry Reilly will become crucial for the two unionist rivals today.

Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson easily topped the poll with 159,813 votes and was elected on the first count. Her total equates to around 25% of the vote – similar to what Bairbre de Brun pulled in for Sinn Fein in 2009.

Diane Dodds attracted the second highest vote with 131,163 first preferences. This was an increase from 15% in 2009 to 21%. But it was still a far cry from the days when former DUP leader Ian Paisley dominated the European poll with almost 30% of the vote.

Alliance got its biggest ever share of the vote with an increase from 5% to 7%. Their previous best was 6.8% when Oliver Napier ran in 1979.

The UUP vote dropped from 17% in 2009 to 13.3%, and the SDLP had a disappointing performance, finishing in fourth place after the first round of counting was completed. Alex Attwood got 81,594 votes, around 13% of the ballot, compared with the 16% his party got in 2009.

TUV leader Jim Allister's share of the vote dropped slightly from 13% in 2009 to 12%, however he said he was more than pleased with his performance.

There was disappointment for Green Party candidate Ross Brown who attracted 1.7%, compared to the 3% which his leader Steven Agnew gained in 2009.

There was a massive increase in turnout this year with 636,093 people voting. There were 9,968 spoiled votes, leaving the valid number of votes to be counted as 626,125 votes.

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