Molloy defends Sinn Fein performance in general election
Senior MP pleased to still have seven seats despite vote share slipping by 7%
A senior Sinn Fein MP last night defended the party's performance in last week's General Election, which saw its share of the vote slip by almost 7%.
Francie Molloy (68), who was re-elected in the Mid Ulster constituency which he has represented since 2013, said the lack of major controversy surrounding the DUP leader - what he called 'the Arlene factor' - had subdued the republican party's turnout.
Mr Molloy said he thought comparing Sinn Fein's vote in 2019 with the previous General Election result gave a false impression, in that 2017 saw an exceptionally high vote for the party.
"In 2017, people were really agitated by what was happening, by the 'Arlene factor'. Her 'crocodile' remark was still very much in people's minds, the idea of people being treated as second class citizens had really hit home," he said.
"A lot of people were annoyed at that who normally didn't get annoyed.
"But this time was different. I think that overall the performance was good."
Mrs Foster sparked controversy ahead of the 2017 Assembly election when she said "if you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back and looking for more" in relation to Sinn Fein's demands for an Irish Language Act.
Mr Molloy said: "I know people have been saying there are issues, but for me if you go into an election with seven seats and you come out with seven seats, that's good. The Foyle seat was probably the surprise - not just because of the fact of losing, it, but the size of the loss.
"When you look at the Foyle constituency, I think the bigger surprise was that we won it last time round.
"(This time) the SDLP mobilised their forces again and brought them out - that's my impression."
He also felt there was a touch of complacency which had affected his party's share of the vote.
"People said, 'You don't need to worry, your seat's safe'. But then if everybody thinks that, then it's not safe!"
In Belfast, he said the whole focus was on John Finucane's battle to take a seat from senior DUP figure Nigel Dodds. "West Belfast was a wee bit lost in that," he admitted.
In his own constituency of Mid-Ulster, the MP said his vote had gone down, but only to what was its "basic" level.
"It was back to what Martin McGuinness' vote was, and what my basic vote was: 2017 was a spike and it has now dropped back to what the base republican vote was."