Newry-Armagh: Sinn Féin increases share in banker seat
Mickey Brady secures 48% of vote and over 5,000 more first preferences than in 2015
Sinn Féin’s Mickey Brady, right, and Chris Hazzard celebrate their election. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Sinn Féin managed to increase its share of the vote in Newry-Armagh as it retained the area’s Westminster seat for the fourth time in a row.
There had been little expectation of an upset ahead of the election in what has become a banker seat for the party over the past decade-and-a-half, and sitting MP Mickey Brady duly delivered with an increased majority compared with the last parliamentary contest two years ago.
He secured 48 per cent of the overall vote, attracting over 5,000 more first preferences compared with his last runaway success in 2015.
The veteran politician thought it fitting to quote hunger striker Bobby Sands on the site of the former Long Kesh detention centre, telling supporters: “We are seeing the rising of the moon tonight.”
Mr Brady rebutted criticisms over Sinn Féin’s abstentionist policy in the UK parliament, and hailed a “great night” for the party.
“Our mandate has increased, and this is a great night for Sinn Féin. The momentum from March [Stormont Assembly elections] has carried on, and continues to carry on.
“People have talked a lot tonight about abstentionism – it’s not a factor in our constituency, people vote for us, for who we are, for what we are. We are the go-to party,” he said.
It was a disappointing night for Social Democratic and Labour Party MLA Justin McNulty, who pulled in just over 9,000 votes.
This figure – down 3,000 on his performance in 2015 – is somewhat instructive of shifting voter allegiance between the parties in the area, and Sinn Féin’s impressive showing was undoubtedly aided by a 4 per cent boost in turnout.
During his concession speech former All-Ireland football champion Mr McNulty used a sporting analogy to sum up the task faced by himself and his colleagues, saying they were playing “up the hill and against the breeze”.
Unionist parties could not agree on an electoral pact in the constituency in advance of this election, and this was reflected in the results as Democratic Unionist Party MLA William Irwin finished a distant second on 13,000 votes.
This was far behind the 16,000 preferences won by Ulster Unionist Party candidate Danny Kennedy who stood as the sole unionist candidate for the seat in 2015. His party colleague Sam Nicholson managed just over a quarter of that figure this time around.
Recent Westminster elections
2010 – Conor Murphy (Sinn Féin) defeated SDLP’s Dominic Bradley (18,857 votes to 10,526).
2015 – Mickey Brady (Sinn Féin) beat UUP’s Danny Kennedy (20,488 to 16,312).