An emotional Mark Durkan paid tribute to party colleague Pat Ramsey for his unstinting campaign support in the face of grave family illness and also expressed solidarity with Sinn Féin activists whose cars were attacked in Londonderry during the course of the canvass.
The new Foyle MP, elected for the third time in the constituency with an increased vote and an increased majority over Sinn Féin, choked back tears whilst paying tribute to party activists and especially Mr Ramsey for helping to secure his return.
“I would like to thank Pat Ramsey, who did so at a time when he faces grave family illness but was unsparing in the effort that he put into the campaign and even today at a very sensitive and emotional time and I really appreciate that,” he said.
The former leader of a party whose members, not least the aforementioned Mr Ramsey, have been subject to attack and intimidation in the past, also said he stood side-by-side with Sinn Féin members who had suffered similarly during the course of this campaign.
“I also appreciate the pressures and the risks that activists can be under, not just at times in my own party but in other parties as well, in this constituency.
“It’s important that we recognise the safe conduct of this election process.
“It’s a victory for all of us, so whether we are winners or losers tonight on this podium, it is important that those of us who stand, who are prepared to ply our trade, promote our arguments within the democratic process, literally camp here together tonight and stand in solidarity with those in other parties who have been targeted, victimised or threatened in any way, we are all with you,” he said.
In an election where the percentage turnout fell to just 53.58 per cent from 58 per cent five years ago, Mr Durkan fought off the challenge of Gearóid Ó hEára polling 17,725 to the latter’s 11,679 and winning by a margin of 6,046 votes.
The DUP’s Gary Middleton finished third polling 4,573 and improving on Maurice Devenney’s 4,489 tally from 2010.
Ulster Unionist candidate Julia Kee polled 1,226; Alliance candidate David Hawthorne polled 835; UKIP candidate Kyle Thompson polled 832; and Conservative Hamish Badenoch brought up the rear with 132.
Five hundred and twenty-six ballots were rejected and only 37,528 electors of an eligible 70,035 turned out. That’s 53.58 per cent, down on 58 per cent five years ago.
Mr Durkan vowed to pursue his advocacy of a ‘City Deal’ for Londonderry during his renewed tenure.
He said: “I want to be working with others to bring forward the idea of the ‘City deal’ as a way of moving forward on all the agreed principles and priorities of the ‘One Plan.’”
He also said his reelection showed voters appreciated representation in London.