This year’s election to the Northern Ireland Assembly, on early indications, appears to have been a draw between Sinn Féin and the SDLP in Foyle, as a surge in support for independents and veteran campaigner Eamonn McCann could potentially deprive both of a coveted third seat.
Although the final destination of the fifth and sixth seats is still anybody’s guess, neither Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness nor the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood have executed the parties’ respective strategies of topping the poll and giving their third candidates a fighting chance of being returned in Foyle.
Mr McGuinness narrowly topped the poll with 5,037 first preferences ahead of Mr Eastwood’s 5,000 but he fell short of a quota of 5,672 depriving his running mates of an early transfer of surpluses.
Whilst the SDLP’s Mark. H. Durkan polled 4,197, Sinn Féin’s Raymond McCartney (3,198), Sinn Fein’s Maeve McLaughlin (3,062) and the SDLP’s Gerard Diver (2,700) were all outperformed by People Before Profit candidate Eamonn McCann (4,176) and Independent Anne McCloskey (3,410).
It now depends on the exclusion of lower placed candidates to determine who reaches the quota first and gets to distribute their transfers.
In the battle within unionism it was an okay election for the DUP’s Gary Middleton who received 4,737 votes, over 2,000 less than William Hay in 2011.
The DUP suffered collateral damage from the two other unionists running, although it was a bad election for the UUP.
The UUP’s Julia Kee received only 1,420 votes, which was less than Peter Munce in 2007
It was a good outing for Independent Unionist Maurice Devenney, who received 1,173 votes despite having no party apparatus on which to rely.
The story of the election, despite intense interest in the battle within northern nationalism and the split unionist vote, appears to be the potential election of veteran journalist, civil rights campaigner, and Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) activist, as a People Before Profit (PBP) MLA.
Mr McCann fought off contenders for the disaffected vote from Anne McCloskey, Kathleen Bradley and Green MLA Mary Hassan as well as from the mainstream parties to place fifth on first preferences.
He now needs transfers to see if he’ll join party colleague Gerry Carroll as an obstreperous presence on the Stormont back benches later this month.