The biggest story of the count was the election of veteran journalist, campaigner and unreconstructed Marxist, Eamonn McCann, who led supporters in a rendition of socialist anthem, ‘The Internationale,’ when he was ultimately declared with a final tally of 5,394 early on Saturday.
The People Before Profit candidate, who said his victory was a triumph for non-sectarian politics, stole between the lowest polling Sinn Féin and SDLP candidates Maeve McLaughlin and Gerard Diver and saw off the challenge of Independent Anne McCloskey, to take a seat, after many glorious failures over the years.
In line with manifesto pledges, the environment, not least the huge illegal dump at Mobuoy, infrastructure, inequality, equal marriage, women’s reproductive rights, and the expansion of Magee, will be among his key concerns, when the new Assembly gets down to real business.
“No longer will there be silence on discrimination, injustice, poverty or unemployment. No more will a blind eye be turned to environmental issues nor can huge corporations expect favourable treatment while the ordinary person foots the bill and suffers. What we have demonstrated is that when people come together, we can make change happen. Nothing is out of reach or impossible when it comes to people power and that will forever remain at the heart of People Before Profit,” the party declared.
Whilst MLAs of whatever hue have limited influence, Mr McCann will have the option of employing his considerable interrogative rigour at Committee level, the new Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and Infrastructure Committees, being obvious fits. He can also submit Private Member’s Bills for consideration. And notwithstanding all the talk of the SDLP and UUP forming an opposition, remember we already now have a diverse and relatively contrarian ‘gang of six,’ comprising McCann, Gerry Carroll (PBPA), Claire Sugden (Independent), Jim Allister (TUV), Steven Agnew (Green) and Clare Bailey (Green), who will ably fire poltical snowballs from the back benches.