Foyle Assembly Election 2016: Middleton holds ground; McCann’s the man; and SDLP suffer defeat in citadel

�/Presseye.com - 56h May 2016.  Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland 

NI Assembly Elections Foyle and East Londonderry count

Successful DUP candidate Gary Middleton celebrates his election to Foyle.

Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com

�/Presseye.com - 56h May 2016. Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland NI Assembly Elections Foyle and East Londonderry count Successful DUP candidate Gary Middleton celebrates his election to Foyle. Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com

In the battle within unionism in the Foyle constituency 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, but he nonetheless easily fought of the challenges of his competitors in the field.

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 (3.5 per cent), which was less than Peter Munce’s 1,755 (4.3 per cent) in 2007 and no-one in Londonderry knew who Peter Munce was.

It was a good outing for Independent Unionist Maurice Devenney, who received 1,173 votes despite having no party apparatus on which to rely.

Notwithstanding the competition Middleton was the third best placed candidate in terms of first preferences, trailing only Martin McGuinness and Colum Eastwwod and was the first to be elected thanks to transfers from his unionist rivals after stage four of the count.

“We are absolutely delighted, the unionist people have spoken, and, of course, we’ve got votes from right across the constituency and we are delighted that people came out in force to give me their first preference,” said Mr Middleton.

“It has been a hard fought campaign but I would like to come out and thank everybody who has shown us their support.”

Despite the result UUP candidate Kee was upbeat and vowed she’d be back as a fixture in the election cycles ahead in Foyle.

“I’m happy with the performance of the team and I’m happy with the vote, of course, I am.

“I think we have to understand there were three unionists standing. The DUP’s vote has decreased by over two and a half thousand.

“Our vote has increased as we didn’t stand anybody in the last election.

“There were two unionist candidates standing [in 2007]. Whenever you take it into perspective we have increased our vote and I’ve increased my vote from Westminster obviously” said Ms Kee.

Turning aside from the unionists it was a break through election for Eamonn McCann, the veteran journalist, civil rights campaigner, and Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) activist who was returned as a People Before Profit (PBP) MLA after a half-century of campaigning for a variety of causes.

Mr McCann fought off contenders for the disaffected vote from Anne McCloskey, who polled substantially and was in the running until the end, and Kathleen Bradley, as well as from the mainstream parties to place fifth on first preferences.

He’ll now join party colleague Gerry Carroll as an obstreperous presence on the Stormont back benches later this month.

It was also a defeat for the SDLP, which lost a seat in its former citadel.

Neither Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness nor the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood executed their parties’ respective strategies of topping the poll and exceeding the quota and giving their third candidates a fighting chance of being returned.

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 Féin’s Maeve McLaughlin (3,062) and the SDLP’s Gerard Diver (2,700) were all outperformed by McCann (4,176) and Independent Anne McCloskey (3,410).

The losers were Sinn Féin’s Maeve McLaughlin, who had been impressive as chair of the Health Committee at Stormont, and the long-standing former SDLP Councillor Gerard Diver, who was already under pressure prior to an ill-famed radio interview in the run up to the election.