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West Tyrone: Status quo remains as Sinn Fein, SDLP and DUP all retain their seats

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Sinn Fein’s Nicola Brogan (second from right) gets elected for West Tyrone at the count in Meadowbank Sports Arena, Magherafelt (Credit: Jonathan Porter/PressEye)

Sinn Fein’s Nicola Brogan (second from right) gets elected for West Tyrone at the count in Meadowbank Sports Arena, Magherafelt (Credit: Jonathan Porter/PressEye)

Nicola Brogan

Nicola Brogan

PA

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Sinn Fein’s Nicola Brogan (second from right) gets elected for West Tyrone at the count in Meadowbank Sports Arena, Magherafelt (Credit: Jonathan Porter/PressEye)

West Tyrone has seen no huge change this year, with Sinn Fein again securing three seats in their stronghold, while the DUP’s Tom Buchanan and the SDLP’s Daniel McCrossan were both re-elected.

Ms Brogan secured the first of the constituency’s five seats on Friday, topping the poll with 8,626 votes in the first stage of the count.

A total of 45,994 valid ballot papers were counted, with the quota to reach election standing at 7,666.

Daniel McCrossan took the second seat, making him the first SDLP MLA in West Tyrone to secure three elections in a row.

He believes leader Colum Eastwood “has led this election very, very strongly", despite the party’s disappointments elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

"I think that the campaign has been energetic, we’ve had fantastic candidates,” he said.

"Today I’m thinking of my colleagues and friends, Pat Catney, Dolores Kelly and Karen McKevitt, who didn't make it over the line. Today, the exact same mandate with slightly higher numbers has been given to the DUP and Sinn Fein. Is that an election for change? We will wait and see.”

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Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he added that symbolism “won’t change the cost of living crisis or healthcare”.

"The DUP and Sinn Fein are in the exact same position. Michelle O’Neill and whoever may be the joint First Minister will have the exact same power they had six weeks ago. I’d be foolish to suggest that there isn’t historic symbolism in this. I appreciate it very much,” he said.

"I know that when the DUP said there won’t be a nationalist First Minister, that that would have rung very hard, similar to the comments of 2017 [when former DUP leader Arlene Foster used the term crocodiles to describe Sinn Fein]. It would appear the DUP have learned no lessons.

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"It doesn't matter who sits in the First and Deputy First Minister’s offices. The days of dictating from one side to another are gone. People need to work together."

There had been speculation that the TUV could take the SDLP’s seat, and although that didn’t happen, the party’s Trevor Clarke polled well, sitting with 4,884 votes as of the final results.

The DUP’s Tom Buchanan said he never felt any fear that his unionist seat was in danger though, stating: “It was a strong TUV candidate, but I never had any reason to look over my shoulder. I never had any cause to fear that my seat was in difficulty, because from the work I did on the ground, I knew that the people would stand by me.”

This was Nicola Brogan’s first time running in the Assembly election. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, she said a priority for her is “helping to get the Executive back up and running”.

"We know the issues with the cost of living crisis and the healthcare system. We want to invest one billion pounds into that and that will be our focus after these elections,” she continued.

Declan McAleer is the only one of three Sinn Fein MLAs elected five years ago to still be in office. He has been representing the constituency over the last decade, while Maoliosa McHugh was co-opted into Michaela Boyle's seat in May 2019.

Mr McAleer said he was “absolutely overwhelmed” to get re-elected and believes “the DUP have to look very carefully – the vast overwhelming majority of people here in the north vote, the message is to get back in there and get the business done”.

Having also served on Stormont’s Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, until the Executive’s collapse with Paul Givan’s resignation as First Minister, Mr McAleer also claimed: "I have canvassed thousands and thousands of doors across West Tyrone and beyond, and not in one situation has any farmer said to me, that the Protocol has posed them any problems.

"Had we not got the Protocol and ended up with a land border on the island of Ireland, baring in mind that a lot of our farming production (such as milk processing) is produced on an all-island basis, that would have been absolutely devastating for agriculture.”

It has been another story of disappointment for the UUP, whose high-profile candidate Ian Marshall failed to make an impact and was eliminated at the fourth stage.

The Alliance Party’s Stephen Donnelly was also originally tipped to be a viable candidate this time round, after building on his support from 494 votes in the 2016 Assembly election to 1.252 votes in 2017.

However, in the count’s fifth stage revealed on Saturday morning, he was eliminated with the lowest number of votes at 3,777, but still seemed positive about the growth in his votes over the last six years, rising from a mere 494 votes in 2016’s Assembly elections.

Seven candidates had further been eliminated last night, including independent Paul Gallagher, who had the lowest number of votes with 1,895 by stage three.

The turnout for this year’s election was 66.9%, while 2017’s Assembly election saw a 66.9% turnout.


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