Belfast Telegraph

Ups and downs across Northern Ireland constituencies

Newry and Armagh - Complete

DUP poll topper William Irwin said u nionists in Newry and Armagh did not buy the "bad press and political attacks" his party faced.

While Mr Irwin secured a return to Stormont, UUP veteran Danny Kennedy's long tenure at Stormont came to an end.

The former deputy party leader said it is unlikely that he will remain in politics following the defeat.

Sinn Fein's Cathal Boylan, Megan Fearon and Conor Murphy were also elected, as was the SDLP's Justin McNulty.

Mr Irwin said his constituency had spoken loud and clear.

"We have had a lot of bad press from the media and been attacked by other parties across the board. My constituency spoke out loud and clear - people saw through a lot of the attacks," he said.

"I didn't get involved in the mudslinging and I fought a clean fight."

Sinn Fein's Cathal Boylan said: "The message from Sinn Fein about equality, respect and integrity has come out for us and that is the message we were giving out on the doorsteps. This is a mandate to renegotiate."

Belfast West - Complete

Sinn Fein reasserted its dominance in west Belfast in a contest that saw the end of SDLP stalwart Alex Attwood's tenure at Stormont.

Chastened after People Before Profit (PBP) topped the poll in 2016, Sinn Fein's Orlaithi Flynn secured top spot this time.

PBP's Gerry Carroll did retain his seat along with three other familiar Sinn Fein faces, Pat Sheehan, Alex Maskey and Fra McCann.

Ms Flynn said a "step change" was needed at Stormont.

"There can be no return to the status quo," she said.

Mr Attwood, an MLA since 1998, delivered an emotional speech.

"I feel I have let the SDLP down," he said. "I feel I have let the people of west Belfast down."

East Antrim - Complete

East Antrim lost its only nationalist seat with the UUP ousting Sinn Fein stalwart Oliver McMullan.

The veteran politician had been fighting with relative newcomer John Stewart for the final seat in East Antrim but lost out shortly before 8pm as the results were announced.

It was a blow for Sinn Fein coming on a day of victories for the party, and is the first time the constituency has been without a nationalist MLA in nearly two decades.

However, Mr Stewart - who lost out on an Assembly seat in last May's elections when he ran for the first time - managed to get over the line after taking surplus votes from the DUP's Gordon Lyons who was elected in the previous round.

The DUP held on to two seats, with Stephen Ross a casualty of the reduction in overall seats at the Assembly.

However, it was a good day for returning DUP MLA David Hilditch who topped the polls once again and claimed 6,000 first preference votes.

He admitted it had been a risk to run three DUP candidates but said he was pleased with their performance and said the challenge now is to ensure a resolution can be found in the political stalemate.

"These matters have to be dealt with and if we run away from every problem that we have in politics, there will be an election every other month," he said.

South Down - Complete

Newcomer Sinead Ennis helped Sinn Fein pull off a spectacular one-two in South Down with a combined vote of more than 19,000 votes.

The party's bright new star topped the poll ahead of party colleague Chris Hazzard, the minister in charge of the Department for Infrastructure in the last Executive.

He has been member of the Assembly since 2012, and although his return to Stormont was never in doubt, the performance of Ms Ennis, a member of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council for just three years, was hugely impressive, especially for a relative newcomer to front line politics after replacing the outgoing Caitriona Ruane

She polled 10,256 votes, but claimed she didn't expect to finish first. "Everybody may be making a big deal about topping the poll, but it was never on the agenda. Our focus was to maximise the Sinn Fein vote in South Down."

Ms Ennis, a member of the Down GAA senior ladies football panel, added: "This election was based on real issues, and I am very proud of the campaign we waged.

"We got the feeling on the doors it was going to be positive. How it turned out is beyond everybody's expectations. We want to get the institutions back up and running and to deliver.

"Hopefully the DUP will approach this in the same way."

Mr Hazzard said it was an historic election for the party in South Down. He added: "We are very fortunate we have really good mentors in South Down. We have learned from the best, and we have delivered on it."

The constituency was once a powerbase for the SDLP, and Sinead Bradley's win for the party was overshadowed by the death of her father, PJ Bradley, an MLA from 1998 until 2011, and whose funeral was held as the counting continued in Lisburn.

She was not present when the deputy returning officer Maureen Carroll announced, in a near empty declaration room, that she had been elected on the third count.

Meanwhile of the 17 elections which he fought - his first was to Lisburn Borough Council in 1981 - Jim Wells claimed his campaign was by far the easiest had ever encountered on the doorsteps. He was elected on the fourth count.

And he also insisted the political fallout over the energy scheme scandal had absolutely no impact on his campaign.

A jubilant Mr Wells declared: "It was the most pleasant of all. RHI was the flame that never burned in South Down."

Upper Bann - Complete

Ten months after being ousted from the NI Assembly, the SDLP's Dolores Kelly has made a triumphant return after taking the fifth seat in Upper Bann.

Her success dashed Sinn Fein's hopes of a second seat in the constituency for newcomer Nuala Toman after John O'Dowd was re-elected.

The DUP's Carla Lockhart topped the poll with 9,140 first preference votes and was elected in the first round.

Her party colleague Jonathan Buckley was elected in the fourth round after polling 7,745 first preference votes.

The UUP's Jo-Anne Dobson was ousted, but her party colleague Doug Beattie was elected at the fifth round with 5,467 first preference votes, alongside Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd who polled 8,220 first preference votes.

As Dolores Kelly took the fifth and last seat in the sixth round with 5,127 first preference votes, she warned: "Powersharing was never about power carve-up and that is what we've had over the last 10 years."

The UUP's Doug Beattie, who dedicated his victory to his grandson Cameron who lost his life last year, ruled out any bid for the party leadership after Mike Nesbitt stepped down, saying he would have begged him to stay and steady the ship.

He said that the nationalist vote had mobilised because of the inept leadership of Arlene Foster through a lack of respect for the other people who share the space of Northern Ireland and warned that unionism has been damaged as a result.

Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd said: "There is a clear message from the nationalist republican community that under no circumstances will we accept second-class treatment, that they are up for powersharing but it's on the basis of agreements that have already been agreed and the implementation of them."

Mid Ulster - Complete

Sinn Fein's leader in the north Michelle O'Neill said it was a "great day for the party and for women" as she topped the poll in Mid Ulster.

After securing 10,253 first preference votes she said that while a "difficult period" lies ahead, a return to powersharing is possible.

"We have to go in there wanting to find a way forward. But we have to have fundamental change from the DUP. There is a hard road in front of us in the next three weeks but Sinn Fein is coming at it trying to find a way forward," she said.

Ian Milne and Linda Dillon were both elected for Sinn Fein in the second count, ensuring the party retained its three seats.

The DUP kept its one seat with Keith Buchanon securing 9,568 votes. Despite his re-election he said it was a "sad day for unionism" in Mid Ulster.

He made his comments after the Ulster Unionists lost their only seat. Sandra Overend was eliminated after failing to secure enough votes to beat the SDLP's Patsy McGlone.

Mr McGlone was elected in the fifth stage with 8,247 votes.

Turnout for the area was 72.38% - the highest in a decade.

South Antrim - Complete

The DUP's Trevor Clarke lost his South Antrim seat as he and his two party colleagues battled it out to the end.

Paul Girvan and Pam Cameron were finally returned in the eighth stage of counting after the Alliance Party's David Ford's surplus votes were distributed between the three DUP candidates.

There had been whispers throughout the day that Mr Clarke would become a casualty of the overall reduction in Assembly seats and he lost out to Mrs Cameron by a difference of 150 votes.

"I am disappointed but it was either Pam or me and she won, and that's just how it goes," he said.

He added that while he has not given thought to his future, he remains committed to the DUP.

Sinn Fein secured a convincing victory in the constituency, with their only candidate Declan Kearney romping home to victory early on in the day.

He was returned to his seat after securing 7,065 votes, with 6,891 first preference votes and said the result was a "mandate for equality" and a "mandate against sectarianism".

Meanwhile, as UUP candidate Stephen Aiken was returned, he paid tribute to his outgoing party leader Mike Nesbitt, who he said had shown great courage in trying to move away from extremism in politics.

West Tyrone - Complete

West Tyrone has lost its Ulster Unionist representation at Stormont after a nail-biting election that saw nationalists win big.

Barry McElduff, Michaela Boyle and Declan McAleer won three seats for Sinn Fein while Daniel McCrossan secured his seat for the SDLP.

As well as thanking constituents for apple tart on the election trail, Mr McElduff reinforced his party's message that he would go forward on the basis of "integrity, respect and equality."

Tom Buchanan of the DUP topped the poll with over 9,000 votes and is now the sole unionist in West Tyrone, one of the most rural constituencies in Northern Ireland.

The Ulster Unionist's Alicia Clarke, who replaced well known Ross Hussey, lost the party's seat at Stormont.

The daughter of a Church of Ireland minister, Miss Clarke expressed liberal views on abortion and same sex marriage during the election campaign, views that some in her party privately described as "unhelpful".

North Antrim - Complete

Sinn Fein's Philip McGuigan became the first republican to ever top the poll in the DUP heartland of North Antrim.

Mr McGuigan, who replaced Daithi McKay last year, was elected in the sixth stage, ensuring the party retained its one seat.

"The people of North Antrim sent out an historic message today. I am looking forward to working with the Sinn Fein team in the assembly to deliver on their demands. People are no longer going to accept being second class citizens," he said.

The DUP lost one of their three seats when Philip Logan, who was only elected to the assembly in 2016, was beaten by Ulster Unionist Robin Swann.

Mr Swann paid tribute to outgoing party leader Mike Nesbitt "for his hard work and commitment".

TUV leader Jim Allister was elected in the final stage. He said it was a "poor day for unionism".

"It is a day that need not have arrived but for the arrogance and the bungling of Mrs Foster which has delivered, for the first time in Northern Ireland's history, the absence of a unionist majority at Stormont. Your country is being destroyed by the cuckoo you brought into the nest in 2007," he said.

The DUP's Paul Frew and Mervyn Storey were also elected in the final count.

"This has been a brutal time. People are concerned, worried and nervous. We are elected to serve the people and I would say to the parties that are messing about 'get back into the assembly and work for the people'," Mr Frew said.

Strangford - Complete

The DUP have retained three seats in Strangford after the gamble to move Peter Weir from neighbouring North Down to replace ex-DUP minister Jonathan Bell.

Mr Bell, who was suspended from the party over his allegations about the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), contested the Assembly election as an Independent but received just 1,479 first preference votes and lost the seat he has held since 2011.

Mr Weir, who took the final seat after a tightly fought race with the SDLP's Joe Boyle, joins fellow ministers Simon Hamilton and Michelle McIlveen who comfortably won their seats back in Stormont.

Mr Hamilton, who topped the poll with 6,221 first preference votes, said: "A lot of people were predicting doom and gloom for the party in Strangford and that we would lose seats but I was always confident when we went out on the doors."

There was disappointment for the Ulster Unionists with Mr Nesbitt, who topped the poll last year, coming in fourth place.

Mr Nesbitt announced he was resigning as UUP party leader just half an hour after being elected in Strangford. His party colleague Philip Smith lost the constituency's second UUP seat.

The first over the line was the Alliance Party's Kellie Armstrong who was elected following the distribution of votes from Sinn Fein's Dermot Kennedy.

The turnout in Strangford was 60.94%, up from 50.25% last year.

Fermanagh South Tyrone - Complete

It was the fight of her political career but after a tense day of counting in Omagh, Co Tyrone, former first minister Arlene Foster was returned to Stormont.

But Lord Maurice Morrow, the Democratic Unionist chairman, lost his seat in a dramatic final showdown in Fermanagh South Tyrone.

Sinn Fein were the big winners in this constituency, securing three seats for Sean Lynch, Michelle Gildernew and Jemma Dolan, the party's new candidate from Belleek, Co Fermanagh.

One of the big shocks was the elimination of the SDLP's Richie McPhillips who lost out following a second recount after it emerged that just 58 votes separated him and Sinn Fein's Mr Lynch.

The insurance broker won back a seat in last year's election reversing the fortunes of his party which had been without representation at Stormont for four years.

The race for the final seat was between Lord Morrow and the Ulster Unionist's Rosemary Barton, a former teacher, and Mr Lynch, a former IRA commander.

As Mr Lynch made his declaration speech, Mrs Foster and her DUP colleagues walked out in response. Mr Lynch said: "See you later alligator", a repeat of a quip made by Gerry Adams after Mrs Foster alluded to Sinn Fein "crocodiles".

Foyle - Complete

Sinn Fein delivered a bruising blow to the SDLP in its heartland.

Former Derry mayor Elisha McCallion romped home in Foyle to top the poll, almost 2,000 votes over the quota.

Her Sinn Fein running mate and veteran republican Raymond McCartney followed quick on her heels.

Despite the SDLP's unexpected surge across Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein's advance on its cradle has left the party soul-searching.

While SDLP leader Colum Eastwood retained his seat, along with party colleague Mark H Durkan, they admit their rivals stole a march in the upsurge in nationalist turnout.

It is the first time Sinn Fein has out-polled the SDLP in Londonderry.

Meanwhile, long-time activist Eamonn McCann, standing for People Before Profit, conceded the seat he memorably clinched last year after decades of unsuccessfully contesting polls.

From the afternoon it looked unlikely he could see off the DUP's Gary Middleton, who consolidated the unionist vote to take the final seat without meeting the quota.

Ms McCallion accepted regard for former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness in his native city was a factor in boosting the Sinn Fein vote.

"Martin McGuinness in this town is a giant, he is a legend and a hero, and I have no doubt that the position he took in January has meant that the Sinn Fein vote throughout the six counties has increased in the way that it has," she said.

Mr McCann said: "It was a vote that polarised, it was very much an orange and green election."

Mr Eastwood said: "We will regroup and refocus."

Lagan Valley - Complete

Former publican Pat Catney lifted SDLP spirits in dramatic style late by winning the fifth and final seat in the fiercely contested Lagan Valley constituency.

He was elected on the eighth count, narrowly holding off the challenge of the Democratic Unionist Party's Brenda Hale, the widow of a soldier killed in Afghanistan, and become an unexpected member of his party's team in the new Stormont.

The one-time owner of Belfast's famous Kitchen Bar admitted: "Yes, I'm finding this difficult to take in. But we had a route. We had a plan. It's like running a business. My door is open to everyone."

Earlier the DUP's Paul Givan, who provoked nationalist fury over his decision to withdraw money from an Irish language bursary scheme, romped to victory in the first count, and was later joined by party stalwart Edwin Poots.

Even though that decision was a significant factor in Sinn Fein's collapsing of the Executive, he insisted the controversy did not impact on his campaign.

His Department of the Communities withdrew £50,000 to Liofa Gaeltacht, and in the midst of the developing RHI scandal, nationalists on all sides claimed the announcement just before Christmas was vindictive, and heightened the worsening political crisis at Stormont. The funding was later reinstated.

After he was declared a winner, Mr Givan claimed: "I could count on one hand the number of people who mentioned that while out campaigning."

He added: "There was a wide range of issues. Indeed there was more talk about Mike Nesbitt, and how the unionist vote could be consolidated. The high turnout obviously was a factor."

The counting at the Lagan Valley LeisurePlex was painfully slow, and it did not come as a surprise that it was going to be a late finish. The Official Unionist, Jenny Palmer, was the first big casualty.

After defecting from the DUP following the Red Sky scandal, and after winning a seat in last year's poll, this will have been a particularly difficult pill to swallow.

But her running partner Robbie Butler polled strongly in the closing stages, with him and the Alliance Party's Trevor Lunn being returned on the seventh count. Mr Poots was elected on the eighth count with a delighted Mr Catney, who just stayed ahead of Mrs Hale.

North Down - Complete

There was little change in North Down with five outgoing MLAs returned to the Stormont Assembly.

The DUP again topped the polls, with Alex Easton taking 8,034 first preference votes. Mr Easton has received the highest number of votes in North Down since 2007. His party colleague Gordon Dunne was elected in the second stage.

The party's Peter Weir, who had served the area since 1998 (first elected as an Ulster Unionist), was moved to neighbouring Strangford for this election. The DUP knew that, with five rather than six seats available, retaining a third seat would not be possible.

Mr Easton said: "I wasn't expecting to top the polls this time but the party has got its largest ever vote in North Down - over 14,000 - so people recognise the work that we do here on the ground."

The UUP's Alan Chambers, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2016, had the second highest number of first preference votes and was also elected in the first count.

The Ulster Unionists, who had not won two seats since 2007, were hopeful of securing a second seat but Mr Chambers' running mate, TUV defector William Cudworth, was eliminated in the final count.

Former Minister for Employment and Learning Stephen Farry took the third seat in the first count, while the Green Party leader, Stephen Agnew, took the last seat just short of the quota.

The turnout in North Down was 59.22% compared with 49.57% last year.

East Londonderry - Complete

Sinn Fein topped the poll in the unionist stronghold of East Londonderry.

Caoimhe Archibald comfortably led the field on first preferences, although she had to wait until the last round to retake her seat.

Her running mate Cathal O Hoisin, with a healthy share of the vote, lost his seat after a nail-biting day.

The DUP was left licking its wounds as outgoing MLA Adrian McQuillan was eliminated on the eighth count.

His colleagues George Robinson and Maurice Bradley held their seats.

Independent unionist Claire Sugden, the former justice minister, was first elected in the constituency.

There were early expectations of a close fight - and possible recount demand - in the scrap for the final seat between Mr O Hoisin and the SDLP's John Dallat, b ut the SDLP veteran prevailed - although not before a rollercoaster journey.

Former SDLP leader Mark Durkan admitted a row over the selection of Mr Dallat to run for the party over outgoing MLA Gerry Mullan - who then ran as an Independent but was eliminated - did not help its cause.

"Clearly we have damaged ourselves there - there is no two ways about it," he said.

"It is a difficult situation for our supporters, it is difficult for our members, we are going to have to move forward from that."

Mr Robinson blamed UUP leader Mike Nesbitt's call for cross-community transfers for the DUP's demise.

Ms Sugden said if the DUP and Sinn Fein form a new executive she would like her old justice portifolio back.

"I'd like to finish the job I started," she added.

South Belfast - Complete

The Green Party took the last seat of the election after an agonising wait for the ultimately victorious Clare Bailey.

One of the DUP's rising stars, Emma Little Pengelly, lost out.

She said: "I fought to the last."

Victorious DUP candidate Christopher Stalford choked back the tears.

"I am so humbled that the people of South Belfast should have given me the opportunity."

Former Sinn Fein economy minister Mairtin O Muilleoir cruised through in the first round of counting as the poll topper.

"What a great result for those who insisted yesterday that we wouldn't be turned back," he said.

"This was ensuring that the gains for equality, the gains for justice for all, the gains for the peace process wouldn't be turned back by the DUP."

The SDLP's Claire Hanna and Alliance's Paula Bradshaw also booked a return trip to Stormont with some to spare.

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