Belfast Telegraph

Ivan Little's election night diary

They may know how to fight an election, not to mention a war, but republicans could do with a little tuition about the somewhat more genteel art of the selfie. Gerry Adams and Gerry Kelly gathered their Sinn Fein troops around them in the King's Hall last night for the obligatory picture for the scrapbooks.

But as the Belfast candidates and the party's vice-president Mary Lou McDonald huddled close together, something snapped with Mr Kelly - but not in the right way. He was pointing his not-so-smart phone the wrong way and what he got initially was a photograph of photographers taking photographs of him taking photographs - the ultimate news flash you might say.

Those of us watching Gavin Robinson's victory speech at the King's Hall last night had to have a double take - at the double act flanking him.

For the two candidates beside him were virtually identical. However, the terrible twins with the same Christian names in Irish and English could hardly have further apart in their political thinking. For Niall O Donnghaile was standing for Sinn Fein and Neil Wilson was running for the Tories.

The republican admitted that he'd been the butt of non-stop jokes in the Short Strand about his likeness to the Conservative and bizarrely the two men polled similar numbers of votes. And for large sections of Mr Robinson's address their stances were exactly the same. I even noticed that they were scratching their respective noses on the right hand side at precisely the same moment.

Gavin Robinson thought about doing an Ian Paisley on this hapless hack as he arrived at the election count. Because I'd been standing near the door to the King's Hall I was the first journalist to ask him how he thought he'd done. He tried to sidestep the question and later said that at the last minute he'd thought better of his plan to grab me by the lapels as the late DUP leader had done on live television at a Ballymoney election count.

A tiny cup of coffee and a sandwich cost over a fiver at the Belfast count last night. It was more king's ransom than King's Hall.

Five years ago at the last Westminster election, Twitter was still in its infancy. Last night it had become a monster. It's estimated that 15 million tweets were sent during the election counts. And at the King's Hall it was virtually impossible to hold a conversation with anyone without them twiddling their thumbs and their fingers over a keyboard. The testosterone levels were through the roof.

The only nationalists and unionists the British-based broadcasters were interested in last night weren't on this side of the pond. UTV's Marc Mallett, who was working for ITN at the King's Hall, was like a coiled spring all night on his live perch. By the time I left at three in the morning, he'd been called on just once to share the news about our election results.

The car park of the King's Hall complex was lit up like the Blackpool illuminations and even though drivers had their headlights to help guide them out in the wee small hours of the morning, security men still shone tiny torches to show them the way to the exits. If only there'd been the same enlightenment inside.

The deputy returning officer for West Belfast wasn't taking any nonsense after candidates were slow off the mark for her results declaration. She clearly wasn't in the mood for hanging around and proceeded to announce the tallies on an empty stage.

Belfast Telegraph


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