Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness pleased with Assembly election performance given 'challenges' of last term

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said he was pleased with his party's performance, insisting it had to viewed in the context of the "challenges" the executive had faced in the last mandate, highlighting the economic downturn and UK Government "austerity policies".

"That is pretty remarkable performance given the challenges we have faced over the course of the last Assembly term," he said.

The Sinn Fein veteran said he was now looking forward to the "new Assembly and new executive" and focusing on what could be delivered.

Whatever the exact make-up of the next power sharing administration, it is sure to face vocal criticism from the opposition benches.

The two seat pick-up by the socialist People Before Profit Alliance was a remarkable feat for a party with no previous representation in the chamber.

PBPA's Gerry Carroll topped the poll in Sinn Fein's west Belfast heartland while veteran civil rights campaigner Eamonn McCann won a seat for the party in Foyle.

The Green Party also secured two seats in the new mandate, with party leader Steven Agnew and Clare Bailey winning through.

Jim Allister, leader of the TUV and arch-critic of the last administration, retained his seat, though failed to bring any colleagues in with him.

Ms Sugden, who was co-opted during the last term into the seat held by the late independent David McClarty, won a berth at Parliament Buildings in her own right.

Among the high-profile political casualties were independent unionist John McCallister, who lost his South Down seat after nine years, and outgoing DUP MLAs David McIlveen and Ian McCrea. Former SDLP deputy leader Dolores Kelly also lost out in Upper Bann after being edged out for the sixth seat by outgoing Sinn Fein education minister John O'Dowd.

The Alliance Party's Naomi Long and Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew will be making a return to the Stormont benches after previously serving as MPs.

Jenny Palmer, who quit the DUP amid allegations she had been bullied, took a seat from her former party when she was elected for the Ulster Unionists in Lagan Valley.

Former DUP health minister Jim Wells, who was embroiled in a series of controversies in the last term, was also re-elected in South Down.

The SDLP faced a tight battle to retain its single seat in West Belfast with Alex Attwood narrowly pipping the DUP's Frank McCoubrey by 89 votes.

In South Belfast, Claire Hannah, who was co-opted into the Assembly when former SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell stood down, proved successful in her first test at the Assembly polls and was elected just after midnight.

Her running mate, former television reporter Fearghal McKinney was eliminated at stage 10.

Colum Eastwood, who was embarking on his first election as SDLP leader, retained his seat in Foyle.

Sinn Fein's Culture Arts and Leisure Minister Caral Ni Chuilin was also returned for another term in North Belfast, as was Gerry Kelly.

Former DUP political adviser Emma Pengelly, who was co-opted into the last Assembly, won a seat in her own right in South Belfast, as did former DUP Belfast deputy mayor Christopher Stalford.

The turnout of 54.91% was down, but only slightly, on the 55.64% in the 2011 Stormont election.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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