East Derry: Mushroom researcher wins seat for Sinn Féin

DUP manage to retain its three-seat presence

In the East Derry constituency it was a case of as you were with no representational change in the constituency.

However not for the first time in this year's Assembly elections vote management issues cost Sinn Féin one of their high profile MLAs Cathal Ó hOisín who lost out to party colleague Caoimhe Archibald.

Although the DUP outpolled the Ulster Unionist Party by three to one, they failed to turn their numerical superiority into an extra seat. Independent candidate Claire Sugden successfully held off the DUP challenge to unseat her.

Caoimhe Archibald is not your usual Sinn Féin MLA. She had a PhD in molecular mycology which is mushroom research.


A former pupil of Loreto College in Coleraine, she continued her studies in Queen's University in Belfast. After qualifying as a plant pathologist she then joined the agri food company Teagase in Dublin.

During her five years with Teagase she ran in two Dublin marathons.

Ms. Archibald said she hopes to use her professional expertise to promote the growth of indigenous small and medium sized businesses in food and drinks.

“I hope to concentrate my work in the Assembly on promoting food tourism and our natural heritage. My win is somewhat bitter sweet because it has come at the cost of my running colleague Cathal Ó hOisín losing his seat but I am sure he will continue to play a prominent role in the party”, he said.

The DUP managed to retain its three-fold presence despite party big-hitter Gregory Campbell giving up his Stormont role.

Maurice Bradley takes over from him, joining sitting colleagues George Robinson and Adrian McQuillan who were both comfortably returned.

Despite a sweat in the SDLP camp, Gerry Mullan managed to clinch the seat vacated by stalwart John Dallat, who is standing down after 33 years in politics – 18 of those in the Assembly.

Party celebrations will be tempered by a plunge in the SDLP voter share in the constituency – down from nearly 15 per cent into single digit figures to just over 9 per cent.

Mr Campbell said the DUP victory was “far beyond our expectations”.

“Some people were trying to say we lost connection with the working class grassroots of the unionist community — the likes of the PUP, and we got ten times the vote they got, four times the vote of UUP,” he said. “Any arguments, disputes or debates have been settled – not by us, but by the people.”

Handing the baton over to his party colleague, Mr Dallat admitted the SDLP needed a team meeting on Monday morning to assess the drop in support.

“Obviously as a party we have to look at that and see what needs to be done to rectify it,” he said. “It is a tough constituency and I had to work hard down through the years to get the vote.”