Belfast Telegraph

Pat Doherty overcomes an identity crisis to ease back with thumping majority

By Adrian Rutherford

To shouts of "easy, easy" Pat Doherty was returned as MP for West Tyrone with a thumping 10,000-plus majority.

The Sinn Fein veteran was never likely to lose a seat he has held since 2001.

And his margin of victory proved every bit as emphatic as had been predicted when the result was declared shortly after 1.30am.

Mr Doherty embraced family members including his wife Mary as he took to the platform, cheered by jubilant supporters.

The 69-year-old Glasgow-born republican used his victory speech to attack the Conservatives' austerity agenda.

However, speaking afterwards, he defended his decision not to take his seat in Parliament.

"Nothing has ever been achieved at Westminster in terms of Irish politics," he said.

"Everything that has been achieved has been by negotiation - the Good Friday Agreement, Hillsborough, the St Andrews Agreement, the Stormont House Agreement.

"If you watch the debates on the north on TV, the benches are empty. Half of them are sleeping. It doesn't count.

"Our 18 seats don't matter. They don't care - and that's our problem. We need reunification. We need our own democracy on this island."

On his huge margin of victory, he added: "A 10,000 majority makes it sound easy, but if I produce my six-week work programme it was anything but easy."

This was always going to be a comfortable night for Mr Doherty.

The only difficulty he encountered was when he arrived at the entrance to Omagh Leisure Centre minus his photographic identity.

Fortunately, staff recognised him and he took his place in good time to be returned as MP.

The main battle was between rival unionists for second spot.

It was taken by the DUP's Tom Buchanan, who posted 6,747 votes.

Attacking Sinn Fein's policy of abstention, he said: "It is a sad reality that for the next five years we are going to be on the back foot.

"West Tyrone is void of inward investment, of job creation, of infrastructure and so on, simply because we don't have a voice in Westminster."

The SDLP's Daniel McCrossan, a 26-year-old first-time runner, said he was delighted with his 6,444 tally, which secured third.

"Our vote is up even though the turnout is down - it's a very positive message for me," he said.

Ross Hussey, the Ulster Unionist candidate, was fourth.

Belfast Telegraph


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