Long storms to victory

Posted By: March 04, 2017

Brendan Hughes. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, March 4, 2017

ALLIANCE leader Naomi Long stormed to victory in East Belfast yesterday with a poll-topping performance.

The former MP for the constituency racked up 7,610 first-preference votes – almost 1,000 above the quota of 6,727 and over 2,000 more than she received last year.

Reflecting the trend seen across Northern Ireland, East Belfast had an increased voter turnout of 63.02 percent compared to 57.23 percent last year.

Mrs. Long’s vote was also boosted by the party running two candidates this time instead of last year’s three.

The focus of the battle in East Belfast has been whether the DUP can retain three MLAs despite the number of constituency seats being cut from six to five – and if they do, who loses out.

Last night it seemed the fight for the final seat would be between the DUP and the UUP’s Andy Allen – previously the party’s only MLA in the whole of Belfast.

But a final result is not expected until late into the count as the ballots of eliminated candidates are redistributed.

Joanne Bunting – who was elected to ex-DUP leader Peter Robinson’s assembly seat last year – came second with 6,007 first preferences.

Her running mates Robin Newton and David Douglas achieved 4,729 and 4,431 first-preference votes respectively.

But the pair were out-polled by the UUP’s Mr. Allen receiving 5,275 and Chris Lyttle 5,059 who was expected to hold his seat for Alliance.

His party continued to see a rise in its share of the first-preference votes with 31 percent compared to almost 29 percent last year.

However, the DUP managed to stifle previous years of decline as its first preference share marginally increased from 36.7 percent last year to 37.2 percent.

The Ulster Unionists also increased their vote slightly from 11.1 per cent to 12.9 per cent.

As Stormont speaker, the DUP’s Mr. Newton had faced a no-confidence motion following criticism over his handling of assembly debates on RHI and loyalist community organization Charter NI.

DUP constituency office worker Mr. Douglas was fielded as a candidate after his father Sammy Douglas stood down ahead of the election.

The PUP’s John Kyle nabbed 2,658 votes followed by the Green Party’s Georgina Milne with 1,447 and Sinn Féin’s Mairéad O’Donnell with 1,173.

The TUV’s Andrew Girvan polled 917, Cross-Community Labour Alternative’s Courtney Robinson 442, the Conservative Party’s Sheila Bodel 275 and the SDLP’s Séamas de Faoite 250.

Independent candidate Jordy McKeag – an 18-year-old former Orange bandsman who had pledged to gamble his MLA salary on a 1000/1 accumulator to pay off the RHI overspend – received 84 first-preference votes.