Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

General Election: How the people of Northern Ireland did (or didn't) vote


Sarah Laverty
Sarah Laverty
Conal Breen
Claire Gregory
Martyn McCready
Adam Collins

By Claire O'Boyle

Claire O'Boyle hits the streets to hear the wide-ranging thoughts of the electorate.

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Tactical voter, South Belfast

Sarah Laverty (28) is originally from Ballymoney, Co Antrim, and works in policy. She said:

"I voted tactically in South Belfast for the SDLP's Claire Hanna. I'm a Green Party member, from a traditionally unionist background but Claire Hanna was the only choice for me.

"Northern Ireland voted Remain in the Brexit referendum. South Belfast voted Remain overwhelmingly, and I felt Claire Hanna had the greatest likelihood of being returned in South Belfast. I want a Remain MP to represent my constituency.

"Whatever happens next, it will not be straightforward, and the complicated Brexit negotiations are going to go on in Westminster and across Europe.

"But I want the true feelings of the people in Northern Ireland to be reflected. I've never voted in this way for a nationalist party like the SDLP or Sinn Fein before, but I'm actually fine with it.

"In some votes I've given them preferences on down my list and I think there are a lot of people, in my generation especially, who just don't think in that old binary way any more.

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"Our public services are suffering, we've had no functioning government for almost three years, and I think people are prioritising those things over the old-fashioned binary approach to who we vote for."

Nationalist, North Belfast

Conal Breen (19) is a first-year politics student at Jordanstown University. He said:

"This was my first time voting. I decided to vote for Sinn Fein because Nigel Dodds has been MP for North Belfast for many years and there are still so many problems in my area he's not got to grips with.

"There's a housing crisis and we're in a real mess with mental health. We're hearing of suicide among young people - my generation - far too often.

Conal Breen

"The DUP have talked about bringing all this money in through their deal with the Tories, but it hasn't filtered down to the people who need it most.

"I'm a nationalist voter, and Sinn Fein appeal to me more than the SDLP because I don't agree with Irish MPs sitting in a British Parliament.

"John Finucane is a great candidate and I'd be proud for him to represent this constituency. He's a very strong person after everything he's been through in his life and as Lord Mayor of Belfast he's really tried to make Belfast a more inclusive place. That's the sort of representative people want. It feels like young people have been interested in this election and even I voted alongside a group of my friends, people who wouldn't normally feel that engaged with politics.

"This time we've felt like there's a real chance for change."

First-time voter, East Belfast

Claire Gregory (35) is a tax adviser who lives in Belfast's Titanic Quarter. She said:

"Before this election, I have never voted. I've always felt that my voice wouldn't make that much of a difference in it all, and that the politics in Northern Ireland was split quite clearly down Orange and Green lines, something I've never been able to get behind.

"But this election has felt different. This time I have really wanted to have my say. The people I meet through work, my social life and my hobbies aren't divided along those lines for the most part.

Claire Gregory

"So this time I have re-registered and I'm supporting Naomi Long for Alliance in East Belfast.

"I spend a good bit of time in England for work, and I would really love the voice from Northern Ireland being heard across the water in Westminster to be a positive one, and one that represents all the brilliant and talented people here.

"My generation is not all divided along historic lines. I think the reality is we are better than that, and I'd love to feel that people like me - and women in particular - were being represented in a positive way.

"I've always felt that one voice, that my own one voice, wouldn't make a difference, but hopefully this will be the election to change that."

Unionist, North Down

Martyn McCready (73) is a retired caretaker from Dundonald who used to work in Belfast's School of Music. He said:

"I'm a big supporter of the DUP. I've always been able to rely on the party when I've needed help, and Alex Easton has been great. Anything I've asked of him, he's managed to do for me with no hassle at all.

"I supported the DUP in their move to leave Europe, and I voted leave in the Brexit referendum. I still think that was the right choice because being in the EU costs us far too much money as a country.

Martyn McCready

"Saying that though, I wouldn't trust Boris Johnson one bit - although I certainly wouldn't trust Jeremy Corbyn either, so the DUP don't have an easy task ahead.

"It's hard to say what they should do, but I feel they represent my views which is why I back them. I would like Northern Ireland to stay in the UK, but the reality is things are changing and I can see a border poll coming, and maybe even a united Ireland too.

"I think the DUP are doing their best to hold off on that, and that's all you can ask. But if it was to happen, then there's not a lot you can do about it, you'd just have to do what the country tells you.

"But the most urgent thing in my opinion is I'd like them all to get back up to Stormont and back to work. I think power-sharing is a great idea, they just need to figure out a way of making it work."

Non-voter, North Down

Adam Collins (36) is a sound engineer living in Bangor, Co Down. He said:

"I moved to Northern Ireland from Wales a few years ago, and I've really loved it. But to say I've found it difficult to connect with the politics is putting it mildly. I honestly find it outrageous that there has been no Stormont for nearly three years, and these people are still getting paid, and now that we're coming up to this massive general election with so much riding on it, no one has convinced me they deserve my vote.

Adam Collins

"Especially here in Northern Ireland things can seem so negative, but with the state of the place without a functioning government for more than 1,000 days, you'd be forgiven for thinking we're living in a bygone era, not in a country about to welcome in 2020.

"How can you feel like any of them are worth voting for?

"I live in Bangor with my wife, and apart from a couple of leaflets through the door we've had nothing.

"Not a single candidate or canvasser has knocked on the door to speak to me and convince me they deserve my vote. They're just relying on the same old people to vote for them, because this is Northern Ireland and that's how they expect it to work

"I think Northern Ireland really needs to figure this stuff out. It can't continue to be vote the way your parents did."

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