Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

Mid Ulster: Sinn Fein's Molloy says Irish unity now only way to avoid Brexit

  • Eligible electorate: 70,449
  • Votes polled: 44,968
  • Valid votes: 44,620
  • Turnout: 63.83%
  • Majority: 9,537
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

As expected, Sinn Fein comfortably retained Mid Ulster and, after digesting the news that Boris Johnson had secured a Conservative majority in the House of Commons, Francie Molloy MP said the only door now left open to avoid Brexit was Irish unity.

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While his overall vote fell by almost 5,000 votes, and his majority fell to under 10,000, Mr Molloy said the message from Mid Ulster remained a resounding one.

“This vote allows me to continue to develop the strategy for discussion on Irish unity through the peace process and to bring about the revival of the European Union through the ending of partition.

“Within that, all of Ireland can rejoin the European Union. That’s the one door that’s left open to us now,” he said.

With Boris Johnson securing a majority for the Conservative Party in the House of Commons, he said there would now be difficult times ahead for Northern Ireland.

“The problem will now be that Boris Johnson will think nothing of the people of Mid-Ulster, the north of Ireland or Ireland as whole.

“We will have a harder Brexit than ever. The thoughts of the people of Mid Ulster and all of Ireland will have no bearing whatsoever on the Conservative Party.

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“It is a very bad night for the north of Ireland. The one hope we have remaining now lies in Irish unity and an end to partition.

“Personally, I thank the people of Mid Ulster for continuing to place their trust in me and I will continue to provide the constituency service which is so important.”

Mr Molloy also said John Finucane’s win in north Belfast was a massive boost for his party.

“That has really opened the door,” he said. “It gives a clear indication on views over Brexit and an indication that we will also deal with legacy issues. John Finucane is one of the main advocates and the support for him has been good to see.”

Sinn Féin Francie Molloy is returned as MP for Mid Ulster. Photo by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye.

Mr Molloy’s nearest challenger was again the DUP’s Keith Buchanan, who said he had set himself a realistic target of 10,000 votes. He said he was pleased to have surpassed that.

“I’m very happy,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a smaller turnout and that we were going to be down, but Sinn Fein lost 5,000 votes while the DUP has maintained a very strong unionist position in Mid Ulster with almost 11,000 votes.”

Mr Buchanan did admit a rise of almost 2,500 votes for the Alliance Party’s Mel Boyle was a message that had to be heard by both his party and Sinn Fein.

“That’s saying something to both parties,” he said. “Alliance have never make a breakthrough in Mid Ulster before and we have to take that as a signal that Stormont must start to move.

“We will be at talks on Monday, but the pressure is now on Sinn Fein and their red lines. We’ve been saying that for two years. Now voters are saying that too.”

He did admit his disappointment at seeing two of his Westminster colleagues lose their seats in Belfast and the DUP fail to gain North Down.

“For anybody to say they’d rather have an empty chair than Nigel Dodds in North Belfast is somewhat silly so now they have no-one in that chair. But that’s what they voted for so that’s what they get. I’m very disappointed for Nigel, and for Emma Little-Pengelly in south Belfast, though we suspected that would happen.

“I was surprised at North Down. I thought we would have taken North Down."

Voter turnout in Mid Ulster was down by 5%, at 63.83%, but that didn’t prevent the SDLP’s Denise Johnston adding almost 2,000 votes to her party’s tally since 2017.

For the Ulster Unionists, first time candidate Neil Richardson polled 2,611 votes, down almost 500 on his party’s 2017 total.

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