Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

West Tyrone: Orfhlaith Begley romps home for Sinn Fein in border constituency

  • Eligible electorate: 66,259
  • Votes polled: 41,375
  • Valid votes: 41,186
  • Turnout: 62.44%
  • Majority: 7,478
Sinn Fein's Orfhlaith Begley pictured after she won her seat back in West Tyrone Photo by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
Sinn Fein's Orfhlaith Begley pictured after she won her seat back in West Tyrone Photo by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.

By Donna Denney

There were no surprises in the result of the West Tyrone constituency which saw Orfhlaith Begley has been returned as the MP for Sinn Fein with 16, 544, giving her a majority of 7,478 votes.

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However, the DUP's Thomas Buchanan, who saw his vote increase by almost 1,000, said if apathy in unionist community can be harnessed, it would be possible to take this seat back.

Begley romped to the finishing line in the early hours of the morning and shortly after 2.15 am, the result was finally declared.

As expected, she was well ahead of the Mr Buchanan who secured 9,066 votes, with SDLP's Daniel McCrossan picking up 7, 330.

Counting constituency took place in Omagh. A result wasn't expected until around 4am but in a flurry of activity it was made by the Deputy Returning Officer Peter Donaghey almost two hours earlier.

The turnout was 62.44 percent which was up from 55 percent in the 2018 by-election prompted when Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff was forced to step down over controversial tweet of him posing with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the anniversary of the massacre.

This was always going to be Sinn Fein's night in this constituency.

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Speaking from the podium, the newly elected Ms Begley said she was delighted with her result and defended her party's stance on abstentionism.

She said: "This was a crucial election, the election of a generation and clearly people wanted their views heard in terms of Brexit.

“This is a border constituency that rejected Brexit in the Referendum and people came out again in this election to once again reject Brexit.

"People have been very energised in terms of this campaign and people came out in their thousands to reject Brexit but also to reject Tory austerity. They sent a very clear message that they see their future in a new Ireland for all.

"Sinn Fein has made its voice count where it matters, in terms of Brussels - we have been there, in Dublin and we have also travelled to London on a regular basis.

“We gave a pledge in 2017 that we would ensure special status for the North, we would protect the Good Friday Agreement and the all-Ireland economy and we have delivered on all three of those."

The DUP's Thomas Buchanan saw his vote increase not insignificantly from the 2018 by-election from 8, 390 to 9,066 this time around.

He said he was pleased with his performance and added: "We, as a party, are happy that we are continually closing the gap between the DUP and Sinn Fein in the Westminster seat.

“Some people might say "you have a long way to go" but at the same time, at every election the gap is closing.

"Progress may be slow but it shows there is a potential there for Unionist to take back the seat in West Tyrone if only we can break the apathy and get people to come out and cast their vote.”

Mr Buchanan's share of the vote, coupled with the Ulster Unionist Party's Andy McKinney who polled 2,774 may be cause for the two Unionist parties to perhaps consider entering a pact to garner interest from the unionist community in West Tyrone.

Stephen Donnelly, the Alliance party candidate was overjoyed with his performance which saw his share of the vote jump from 1,130 in 2018 to 3,979 this time around.

Daniel McCrossan saw an increase in his vote too but there was still too much of a gap between him and Ms Begley to make it any kind of a contest for the nationalist vote.

New kid on the block vying for the nationalist vote too was Aontu candidate, James Hope, who polled 972 with Susan Glass, representing the Green Party, picking up just 521 votes.

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