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13 May 2010 Edition

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Sinn Féin's record successes, five seats and poll toppers

NEWRY AND ARMAGH: Conor Murphy and his election team

NEWRY AND ARMAGH: Conor Murphy and his election team

BY ROBBIE SMYTH

The Westminster election was an election of precedents, the most significant of which being Sinn Féin’s second consecutive poll topping performance. West Belfast MP Gerry Adams won his sixth Westminster term, with the highest vote share in the Six Counties, and the second highest across all the Westminster seats. Sinn Féin also retained their five seats for the second consecutive election, with increased vote share in eight constituencies compared to the 2007 Assembly elections.
Then you had the DUP leader Peter Robinson being pushed out of his Westminster seat in a car crash end to a 31 year tenure in East Belfast; the UUP losing not just more votes but also their sole British parliamentary representative; and finally, it we saw the first ever Westminster MP for the Alliance Party.

East Antrim

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    746    2%
2001 Westminster    903    2.5%
2003 Assembly    768    2.5%
2005 Westminster    828    2.6%
2007 Assembly    1,168    3.9%
2010 Westminster    2064    6.77%

Oliver McMullan made significant gains in East Antrim, doubling the party vote compared to the 2005 Westminster poll, bypassing the SDLP as the largest nationalist party here.

North Antrim

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    4,045    8%
2001 Westminster    4,822    9.8%
2003 Assembly    6,195    14%
2005 Westminster    7,191    15.7%
2007 Assembly    7,065    15.9%
2010 Westminster    5,265    12.42%

In a constituency where turnout fell from 61.33% in 2007 to 57.81% this time out Sinn Féin’s vote share, with Daithí McKay held up and once again the party finished ahead of the SDLP and UUP. Ian Paisley junior held his father’s seat with a 10.4% fall in vote share, while Jim Allister of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) took 16.8% of the vote.

South Antrim

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    3,226    7%
2001 Westminster    4,160    9.4%
2003 Assembly    4,295    11.5%
2005 Westminster    4,407    11.6%
2007 Assembly    6,313    16.5%
2010 Westminster    4,729    13.91%


Mitchel McLaughlin held up the Sinn Féin vote gains in this constituency that won an assembly seat here in 2007. Coming in third behind the DUP and UUP, Sinn Féin finished ahead of the SDLP for the third consecutive election. The Alliance Party were followed by the TUV, who trailed in last.

East Belfast

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    917    2%
2001 Westminster    1,237    3.4%
2003 Assembly    1,180    3.8%
2005 Westminster    1,029    3.3%
2007 Assembly    1,055    3.6%
2010 Westminster    817    2.37%

With a slightly falling turnout between the Assembly and Westminster elections, declining from 60.04% to 58.45% Short Strand’s Niall Ó Donnghaile held the core Sinn Féin vote here in a constituency that provided the biggest upset of the election in the Six Counties as Peter Robinson’s 31 year reign as MP ended here. He won the seat by just 64 votes from the UUP’s William Craig in 1979, only to be pushed out this time around by the Alliance Party’s Naomi Long.
The Alliance Party’s 37.23% vote share was interestingly their best performance since the 1979 election when the then Alliance leader Olivier Napier won 29.5% of the vote here.

North Belfast

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    5,610    21%
2001 Westminster    10,331    25.2%
2003 Assembly    8,514    27%
2005 Westminster    8,747    28.6%
2007 Assembly    9,094    30.6%
2010 Westminster    12,588    34.03%


Sinn Féin’s Assembly minister Gerry Kelly closed the gap significantly here on the DUP’s Nigel Dodds. Kelly also set another electoral precedent as this is the eighth consecutive election with an increase in the Sinn Féin vote share. Sinn Féin’s growth period begins with the 1996 Forum Assembly election when Sinn Féin took 19% of the vote and runs up to Westminster 2010.

South Belfast

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    2,605    6.4%
2001 Westminster    2,894    7.6%
2003 Assembly    3,933    12.6%
2005 Westminster    2,882    9%
2007 Assembly    3,996    13.17%
2010 Westminster    Withdrew

Sinn Féin withdrew Assembly member Alex Maskey from this constituency to help consolidate the nationalist vote and elect a nationalist MP for the constituency. The SDLP vote rose from 26.78% in 2007 to 41.03% in 2010, showing the resilience of republican voters who have kept the seat out of unionist hands for another election.

West Belfast

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    24,650    59%
2001 Westminster    27,096    66.1%
2003 Assembly    21,368    65%
2005 Westminster    24,348    70.5%
2007 Assembly    23,631    69.9%
2010 Westminster    22,840    71.08%


Once again the Sinn Féin vote share in West Belfast grew and Gerry Adams was returned as MP for his sixth term, making him the longest serving MP in the Six Counties. Willie McCrea was elected for Mid Ulster in 1983, but lost the seat to Martin McGuiness in 1997. He won a by-election for South Antrim in 2000, but lost the seat in the 2001 Westminster elections, regaining it in 2005. So he has five out of seven Westminster election victories compared to Adams six victories.
Though the Sinn Féin majority has increased past the 70.5% mark set in the 2005 election, Adams is still not the largest vote winner in this election. Steve Roheram, the Labour MP for Liverpool Walton won a 72% majority, so Adams must try harder next time!

East Derry

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    3,860    9.8%
2001 Westminster    6,221    15.6%
2003 Assembly    6,121    17.9%
2005 Westminster    5,709    16.1%
2007 Assembly    6,797    20.4%
2010 Westminster    6,742    19.29%


First time Westminster candidate Cathal Ó hOisín ran second in East Derry to the DUP’s Gregory Campbell, almost holding the 2007 Assembly vote share, even though turnout had fallen from 60.92% in 2007 to 55.28% in 2010. Ó hOisín came in ahead of the UUP, SDLP, TUV and Alliance Party.

North Down

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    ——    ——-
2001 Westminster    313    0.8%
2003 Assembly    264    0.9%
2005 Westminster    205    0.6%
2007 Assembly    390    1.3%
2010 Westminster    250    0.75%


When it comes to unionists voting in North Down, the most affluent of constituencies in the Six Counties, there is a Jekyll and Hyde volatility to voter behaviour. The DUP won 34.09% of the vote in the 2007 Assembly elections, but decided not to contest the Westminster poll leaving the way for the a divided UUP to run Ian Parsley against former UUP MP Sylvia Hermon. Hermon had opposed the alliance between the UUP and the Conservatives and ran as an independent, winning 63.26% of the vote. North Down is no stranger to UUP splits and former UUP MP Jim Kilfedder held the seat as an independent from 1979 until his death in 1995.
Vincent Parker was the Sinn Féin candidate here, in his first Westminster election and held the core Sinn Féin vote.

South Down

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    7,771    15.1%
2001 Westminster    10,278    19.7%
2003 Assembly    12,007    26.5%
2005 Westminster    12,417    25.8%
2007 Assembly    14,134    30.65%
2010 Westminster    12,236    28.73%


Catríona Ruane has been an Assembly member for Sinn Féin here since 2003 and held the Sinn Féin Westminster vote share won in 2005. Ruane came in second behind SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie, after tactical voting from unionists, followed by the DUP, UUP, TUV, Green Party and Alliance.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    13,714    26.9%
2001 Westminster    17,739    34.1%
2003 Assembly    15,901    34.5%
2005 Westminster    18,638    38.2%
2007 Assembly    16,833    36.3%
2010 Westminster    21,304    45.52%


Other counts were well over by the time Michelle Gildernew was elected for Sinn Féin on the fourth count in Fermanagh South Tyrone. Announced finally late on Friday afternoon the result was all the more impressive as the unionists unity candidate had put the pressure on a Sinn Féin hold in this constituency.
Sinn Féin had wrestled this seat away from Ulster unionism in 2001 and though Sinn Féin had unilaterally withdrawn Alex Maskey from running in South Belfast to ensure a victory for the SDLP, the SDLP refused to show similar grace in Fermanagh/South Tyrone
In the final event, a substantial amount of SDLP voters deserted the party. Their vote share fell from 13.96% in the 2007 Assembly election to 7.64% this time. The Sinn Féin vote grew by 9.22%.

Foyle

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    12,696    26.0%
2001 Westminster    12,988    26.6%
2003 Assembly    13,214    32.4%
2005 Westminster    15,162    33.2%
2007 Assembly    12,649    30.82%
2010 Westminster    12,098    31.93%


Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson came in second behind the SDLP with a slightly increased vote share on 2007 in a vote where turnout had fallen from 63.89% to 57.54% in 2010.

Lagan Valley

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    2,000    4.3%
2001 Westminster    2,725    5.9%
2003 Assembly    3,242    7.9%
2005 Westminster    3,197    7.5%
2007 Assembly    5,098    12.2%
2010 Westminster    1,465    4.01%


The Sinn Féin vote fell here from the 2007 high that won an Assembly seat as boundary changes eroded some of the nationalist support in the constituency. Paul Butler was the candidate. Jeffery Donaldson has held this seat since 1997, first as an Ulster Unionist and then he jumped ship to the DUP. Donaldson held his seat this time around with a comfortable 49%.81% share of the vote, down 8.5% on his 2005 performance. The 8.6% won by the TUV would seem to have eaten into the Donaldson vote.

Mid Ulster    

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    20,305    40.8%
2001 Westminster    25,667    51.1%
2003 Assembly    20,194    45.5%
2005 Westminster    21,641    47.6%
2007 Assembly    21,094    47.64%
2010 Westminster    21,239    52%


Another record vote share for Martin McGuinness as Sinn Féin banked their fourth successive win in Mid Ulster. The DUP and SDLP lost votes here as the UUP and Alliance increased marginally. The TUV took 7.3% of the vote. Turnout at 63.23% was down on the 73.06% recorded for the 2007 Assembly elections.

Newry & Armagh

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    14,052    26%
2001 Westminster    17,209    30.9%
2003 Assembly    18,852    39.8%
2005 Westminster    20,965    41.4%
2007 Assembly    20,879    42.1%
2010 Westminster    18,857    41.99%


Conor Murphy retained the seat he won here in 2005 for Sinn Féin, turnout fell from 70.83% in 2007 to 60.43% in 2010. This was one of the few constituencies where the UUP vote grew while the DUP stood still. Compared to 2007 the UUP vote share increased from 13.13% to 19.06%, while the DUP vote was almost unchanged, falling marginally from 12.93% in 2007 to 12.84% in 2010.

Strangford

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    614    1.43%
2001 Westminster    930    2.2%
2003 Assembly    1,105    2.97%
2005 Westminster    949    2.6%
2007 Strangford    1,089    3.02%
2010 Westminster    1,161    3.57%


The Sinn Féin vote has been marginally increasing here, and Mickey Coogan recorded the best ever vote share for the party. The DUP vote fell from 50.15% in 2007 to 45.92%, while the TUV took 5.58% of the vote. The UUP vote grew 7.3% to 27.84%.


Upper Bann

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    7,216    14.3%
2001 Westminster    10,771    21.1%
2003 Assembly    9,494    21.8%
2005 Westminster    9,305    21%
2007 Assembly    10,851    25.3%
2010 Westminster    10,237    24.74%


Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd was marginally passed here by the UUP to be the second largest vote in Upper Bann. The UUP took 25.71% of the vote to Sinn Féin’s 24.74%. David Simpson of the DUP took the seat.

West Tyrone

    vote    % of poll
1998 Assembly    15,666    34.1%
2001 Westminster    19,814    40.8%
2003 Assembly    16,111    38.6%
2005 Westminster    16,910    38.9%
2007 Assembly    18,437    44.5%
2010 Westminster    18,050    48.42%

Another seat held and another record performance for Sinn Féin as the party recorded its highest ever vote share in this constituency, nearly 10% up on the 2005 performance. Pat Doherty won his third term in this seat.

MEDIA: Gerry Adams is swarmed at the Belfast count 

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