East Derry: DUP romp home, but Sinn Féin have reason to be happy

Gregory Campbell criticises ‘those who have singled me out for attack’

 

There were no surprises in East Derry, when the DUP’s Gregory Campbell retook the seat comfortably with a majority of more than 5,000 votes.

Some of those additional votes came from the UUP, who polled 2,000 less than in the last Westminster election in 2015.

The incumbent since 2001, an elated Mr Campbell described it as a “magnificent result beyond our wildest expectations”.

However, Sinn Féin also gained ground in the constituency, with their candidate Dermot Nicholl polling 10,881 votes, an increase of more than 4,000 compared with Caoimhe Archibald’s performance for the party in 2015.

Both the Alliance Party and the SDLP largely held their vote, but did not increase it.

With an increased turnout – up from 52.2 per cent in the last Westminster election to 61.6 per cent this time around, and Mr Campbell’s vote increased by more than 5,000 – East Derry is evidence that Sinn Féin is not the only beneficiary of increased voter engagement, with significant numbers of additional unionist voters going to the polls to support their candidate even though his victory never felt in doubt.

The nature of the constituency, which covers a wide area from Dungiven in the heart of Co Derry to the north coast, is such that it is difficult for a nationalist candidate to win a first-past-the-post Westminster election, so for Sinn Féin this increased vote will be regarded as a success in this staunchly unionist constituency.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Campbell – an outspoken politician who has not been afraid to court controversy in the past – criticised “those in the nationalist and republican community who have singled me out for attack and for lambasting and for criticism beyond any fair and equitable statement of fact in politics”.

Fellow DUP politicians and supporters cheered when he said, “Gerry Adams, two years ago, said that ‘we had to break them’, well, we’re not broken tonight, Gerry.”

Mr Campbell also called on Sinn Féin to come to the negotiating table next week prepared to resolve the issues between the two parties to allow for the reinstatement of the Stormont Executive, which has been suspended since January.

“The question on Monday is, are Sinn Féin prepared to move on or are they prepared to continue to hold the communities here in Northern Ireland to ransom? I hope we can all learn from the past and move on to a brighter and better future.”

Recent Westminster elections

2010 – Gregory Campbell (DUP’s) defeated Sinn Féin’s Cathal Ó hOisín (12,097 votes to 6,742).

2015 – Mr Campbell beat Sinn Féin’s Caoimhe Archibald (14,663 to 6,859).