Belfast constituencies see some surprises after poll

SDLP’s Alex Attwood among big political names to lose seat in Assembly election

 Mike Nesbitt announces his resignation as UUP leader in Belfast on Friday. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA

Mike Nesbitt announces his resignation as UUP leader in Belfast on Friday. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA

 

One of the big stories of this snap Assembly election was the high-profile scalps it inevitably claimed.

The first on Friday was in Belfast West, as former SDLP minister Alex Attwood lost the seat he has held in the constituency since 1998.

An emotional Mr Attwood was gracious in defeat. Representing the people of west Belfast “ has been one of the greatest honours, responsibilities and privileges of my life”, he said.

Taking four of the five seats, Sinn Féin’s dominance in the republican heartland was cemented.

People Before Profit (PBP) overreached themselves running two candidates and Gerry Carroll’s running mate, Michael Collins, was eliminated from the contest in the first round.

Mr Carroll claimed Sinn Féin had misrepresented the PBP position on Brexit during the campaign and unfairly lumped them in with other Leave supporters, such as the DUP, TUV and Ukip.

“Anybody that believes the EU is a progressive, left-wing institution is living in a fantasy world,” he said.

While acknowledging the PBP stance to leave the EU had an impact on some voters in the overwhelmingly Remain-supporting constituency, Mr Carroll claimed this was used by Sinn Féin to distract from its failings with regard to welfare reform and job cuts.

Alliance poll-topper

In Belfast East, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long topped the poll in the unionist-dominated constituency.

Ms Long can be pleased with the performance her cross-community party has put in across the city this year to increase its support.

As candidates waited nervously in the Titanic Exhibition Centre to find out if their chances of success were good or sinking, a humorous moment arrived courtesy of Belfast East’s Independent comedy protest candidate, Jordy McKeag. “Wee Jordy”, as the 18-year-old trainee joiner is known, stood as a protest vote over the DUP’s handling of the RHI scandal which precipitated the Assembly election.

He had pledged to put his £48,000 salary on a 1,000/1 accumulator and give any money he won on the horses to charity.

The former Orange bandsman said he was very proud of his 84 votes and his election agent, Cormac MacDiarmada, from online comedy group The Notorious Barrick Boys, said his man would be back to fight the council election.

– Additional reporting: PA