Belfast Telegraph

West Belfast: Fairy tale win for newcomer Carroll as he snatches seat from Sinn Fein

By Ivan Little

Writer Lewis Carroll couldn't have scripted it any better for his political namesake Gerry Carroll whose adventures in electoral wonderland yesterday turned into a fairy tale success.

He gate-crashed Sinn Fein's tea party in its West Belfast Assembly stronghold, costing it one of its five seats at the Stormont table.

Mr Carroll - whose People Before Profit Alliance's bread and butter philosophies have already won him a seat on Belfast City Council and nearly 7,000 votes in last year's Westminster poll - yesterday justified the bookies' decision to make him the favourite to top the poll.

But the margin of Mr Carroll's triumph surprised even him.

He romped home with 8,299 first preference votes, almost 3,500 votes ahead of the nearest Sinn Fein candidate.

Ecstatic supporters hoisted Mr Carroll on their shoulders and the committed socialist immediately wrapped a red flag around himself.

A breathless Mr Carroll said: "This shows that people in west Belfast are looking for something different.

"They are fed up with the state of play at Stormont.

"They're rejecting the Fresh Start agreement and the welfare reforms which are going to hit West Belfast the hardest.

"We will mobilise people power at the grass roots.

"We plan to expand right across the north and Eamonn McCann's performance in Foyle has proved we are on the move and we are going to stand up for the ordinary people at the Assembly."

Asked how he would celebrate his election victory, he said: "With a few scoops."

And the next question was whose seat he would be taking at Stormont.

Sinn Fein acknowledged that Mr Carroll's victory would see it lose one of its five seats and so it proved as Rosie McCorley was eliminated.

However, Alex Maskey, Fra McCann, Pat Sheehan and Jennifer McCann all held their seats.

Mr Maskey said he was proud and honoured to be returning from South Belfast to the west of the city where he was first elected 33 years ago. He claimed there'd been a sustained election offensive against West Belfast and Sinn Fein from Leinster House in Dublin to negative campaigners in the north.

"The people who were decrying West Belfast would probably need a sat nav to find it," he added.

Mr Maskey congratulated Gerry Carroll on his win and said: "He has become something of a lightning rod for some people who are discontented or hostile to Sinn Fein but let's see if we can work together to deliver for the people of west Belfast."

The sixth serving MLA in West Belfast, Alex Attwood, knew he was in a fight to retain his seat with a straight battle against the DUP's Frank McCoubrey who had surprised the pundits with his spirited fight to recapture West Belfast for unionism. At 11.30pm Mr Attwood narrowly retained his seat.

Mr McCoubrey was one of the first candidates to greet DUP leader Arlene Foster as she swept presidential-style into the count at the Titanic Exhibition Centre last night to meet her party faithful and to face the TV cameras.

Belfast Telegraph

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