Sinn Fein top Mid-Ulster and Fermanagh-South Tyrone polls

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Sinn Fein top Mid-Ulster and Fermanagh-South Tyrone polls thumbnailSinn Féin’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill congratulates party colleague and Fermanagh and South Tyrone candidate Michelle Gildernew on her election win at the Omagh count.

SINN FEIN swept the boards in the Westminster General Election on Thursday last with victories in Mid-Ulster and Fermanagh-South Tyrone

Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott's reign as Fermanagh & South Tyrone MP finished after two years, with Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew reclaiming the seat she lost in 2015.

The Brantry woman scored her largest ever personal vote of more than 25,000 to bring the seat back under nationalist control.

On the back of a massive turnout of 76%, the highest in Northern Ireland, Mr Elliott, the agreed unionist candidate, actually increased his vote total from 2015 to over 24,000, but it wasn't enough to stop the Sinn Fein surge.

In Mid-Ulster Sinn Fein's Francie Molloy, as expected, was returned as MP.

While the result may not have been a shock in Mid-Ulster, the size of Mr Molloy's majority was.

The Sinn Fein candidate polled an impressive 54.5% of the vote, with 25,455 of the 46,697 valid votes cast.


A massive increase in both postal and proxy votes in the constituency - around 5,000 on this occasion - contributed to the high turnout and may have proved the decisive factor in swinging the seat Sinn Fein's way.

Their vote total of 25,230 was the highest recorded in the constituency since the heyday of Ken Maginnis in 1992 and saw Ms Gildernew home with a majority of 875, the highest majority in this typically even constituency since 2005.

Tom Elliott's result in 2015 was a stunning upset and his campaign team managed to squeeze out another 700 votes this time, bringing his total to 24,355, but it wasn't enough to allow him to hang on as the UUP lost both of the seats at Westminster it had won in 2015, South Antrim being lost to the DUP.

There was talk during the night of a collapse in the SDLP vote, but that proved to be unfounded when set against the vote the party accrued in 2015.

Mary Garrity managed 2,587 votes, just 150 shy of their 2015 total.

The SDLP vote is now traditionally squeezed in Westminster elections in the face of continued unionist unity candidates and that was evident when compared with their result just three months ago in the Assembly election, when Richie McPhillips scored 5,100 votes.

Ms Gildernew had been favourite for the seat, but for long spells throughout the night there was no guarantee as to which way the seat was swinging.

However, shortly before 4 o'clock on Friday morning it became apparent the seat was heading back to Sinn Fein.

During her acceptance speech, Ms Gildernew commented on how civil a campaign had been fought in the constituency.

She claimed a "lot of good people from a traditional unionist background" had been alienated by some of Mr Elliott's positions.

Mr Elliott said he wouldn't be rushing into any decisions as to what he would do next.

"I'll just get on with life and whatever that brings," Mr Elliott told the Courier. "I'll not rush into anything yet.

"I've still a lot of constituency cases to clear up so I'll do that for people and I still have interests outside of politics. There's plenty of things to keep me occupied."

Green candidate Tanya Jones saw her vote share halve and vote total decrease from 788 to 423, while the Alliance candidate Noreen Campbell saw a small increase to 886, though neither candidate will be getting their deposit returned to them.

However, Michelle Gildernew has been returned to Westminster and she says it's now her job to ensure the Assembly gets back up and running.

While Michelle Gildernew was toasting her return to Westminster, other local figures were celebrating retaining their seats in the House of Commons.

Lady Sylvia Hermon, from Kilnaslee, near Donaghmore, won in North Down for the fifth consecutive election.

However, she was made to sweat as her normally sky high majority was decimated to just 1,208 in the face of the DUP surge, led by Alex Easton, but her 16,000 plus vote was enough to get her over the line.

And Annaghmore businessman David Simpson romped home in Upper Bann with his largest ever vote and majority, scoring more than 22,000 votes to easily retain the seat he has held since 2005, when he spectacularly disposed of then Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.


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