Belfast Telegraph

EU Election 2019

Groundbreaking day for Northern Ireland as three women returned as MEPs

Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The Alliance Party has had its best ever result after leader Naomi Long's stunning success in the European election.

The DUP's Diane Dodds and Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson easily reclaimed their seats, but few expected the Alliance surge to be so emphatic.

And it was a disastrous day for the Ulster Unionists, who are without a seat in Brussels for the first time in decades.

It also means there are three female MEPs for Northern Ireland for the first time.

Mrs Long's remarkable performance saw her party soar to 105,928 first preference votes, sending it to Brussels for the first time. After transfers, Mrs Long collected 170,370 votes - around 115,000 more than her party received in the 2014 European election.

Some 57% of local voters backed Remain candidates.

Check out full the results and transfers - plus Election Hub for latest updates and analysis

Mrs Dodds, who was elected first after the third count, won 155,422 votes following transfers after the surprisingly early elimination of the UUP's Danny Kennedy, while Mrs Long and Ms Anderson - who received the most first preferences - were elected on the fifth count.

Ms Anderson won a total of 152,436 votes - 9,324 more than the quota required to be elected.

Mrs Long's vote was more than 27,000 above the quota of 143,112. On first preference votes alone, the Alliance Party polled twice as many as the Ulster Unionists, who were on 53,052.

Mrs Long said she was "pretty emotional" after the party's performance went well beyond her expectations.

"I was really clear when I went out campaigning what I wanted the vote to stand for: it's a vote to Remain," she said.

"The people who voted for me came together from right across the community to send a message. That message is: 'We want to remain in the EU'.

"I am really delighted. I am thrilled. I take it really seriously and I will serve them to the absolute best of my ability, they have my word on that."

Mrs Long said the pro-Remain vote across the UK was the strongest it had been for years and expressed confidence Brexit could be stopped.

"I fully intend to make this a five-year term of office," she said.

Mrs Long said she intends to stand down as an MLA due to the workload involved in being both an MLA and MEP. "There is no way I would try to juggle both," she said.

A new MLA will be selected from within Alliance to replace her in East Belfast.

Mrs Dodds, the first elected in the Magherafelt count, said the result reinforces the DUP as the "dominant force in unionism".

"It's a delight to be elected as the first MEP in Northern Ireland," she said, pledging to honour the Leave result of the 2016 referendum.

The DUP’s Diane Dodds attends the count in Magherafelt with her husband Nigel
The DUP’s Diane Dodds attends the count in Magherafelt with her husband Nigel
Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson is joined by Michelle O’Neill

Congratulating Mrs Dodds on her re-election, DUP leader Arlene Foster admitted she would have preferred another unionist candidate to have been successful as well.

"What we have instead is a nationalist MEP, a very strong unionist MEP and an MEP who identifies as neither," she said.

"When I look at the votes I notice that unionism is still ahead by over 40,000 and of course I am very pleased about that.

"Obviously we would have preferred two unionist candidates returned but I am absolutely delighted with our turnout again today and the fact that our vote has increased again."

Ms Anderson lost almost 33,000 first preference votes for Sinn Fein since 2014, but said she was happy with her result, putting her drop down to tactical voting by her supporters.

"I've had republicans coming up to me and telling me: 'Look, you're safe and therefore we're going to vote tactically'," she said.

"But the people of the north have sent a powerful message that they reject Bexit just as they did in the 2016 referendum."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, who had been hoping to win back a seat former leader John Hume held for 25 years, notched up 78,589 first preferences but was eliminated after the fourth count.

UUP candidate Mr Kennedy was sixth in the first preferences, behind the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party Jim Allister, who received 62,021 votes.

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