Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

12 May 2005 Edition

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Five seats for Sinn Féin

And then there were five. After months of consistent systematic attacks by political opponents in Ireland and internationally, not to mention ever hostile elements of the mainstream media, the Sinn Féin vote not only held up near the record percentage share achieved last June, the party also registered its 10th consecutive election where the number of Sinn Féin elected representatives increased, this time in both Westminster and local elections, culminating in five MPs and 126 councillors.

ROBBIE SMYTH pours over the details constituency by constituency, where the Sinn Féin vote rose in 13, fell in five, by less than 1% of three of these, with small falls also in Mid-Ulster and West Tyrone.

A 'massive' performance in Antrim

In East Antrim, Sammy Wilson unseated the UUP's Roy Beggs, who had held the seat since 1983, with a massive 13.59% increase in vote share, leaving the DUP just marginally under 50% of the votes cast. Sinn Féin's James McKeown polled 828 votes, a slight increase on both the 2001 result and the 2003 Assembly vote.

The North Antrim poll saw Ian Paisley take 54.78% of the vote and like many of the DUP elected MPs, also give him the chance to launch into a hymn followed by a round of vitriolic attacks on republicans, so no change there.

Where there was a significant change was the growing vote of Sinn Féin. Philip McGuigan cementing his Assembly election victory here in 2003, opening a wider gap between Sinn Féin and the SDLP. He also displaced the UUP, coming second to Paisley with 15.66% of the vote.

Sinn Féin won 4,822 votes here in 2001, 6,195 votes in 2003 and now 7,191. As Sky Sports soccer pundits would say, "this was a massive result".

South Antrim saw the DUP's Willie McCrea, displaced out of Mid-Ulster by Martin McGuinness in 1997, but re-elected here at the expense of the anti-Agreement UUP MP David Burnside. The DUP took 38.22% of the vote compared to the UUP's 29.14%.

This was another constituency where Sinn Féin support grew, as the SDLP vote virtually stood still. Henry Cushnihan took 11.61% of the vote, up on both the 2001 and 2003 Assembly elections, while the SDLP stood virtually still on their 2001 performance.

Sinn Féin's record vote share

Belfast East returned Peter Robinson as expected, but what was interesting was how both the DUP and UUP vote grew in this constituency, both parties registering 6% plus vote increases.

Deborah Devenny was the Sinn Féin candidate. Her 1,029 votes gave the party 3.34% of the poll, almost unchanged from 2001. In 2003, Sinn Féin polled 1,180 votes in this constituency.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly registered another percentage growth in the Sinn Féin vote in North Belfast. The party won 28.64% of the vote, coming second to the DUP's Nigel Dodds, who retained the seat won in 2001.

The Sinn Féin vote was also up on the Assembly performance of 27% of first preferences. At 16.21%, the SDLP registered their third consecutive election of falling vote share here.

Unionist recrimination came thick and fast after the South Belfast returning officer announced the election of the SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell. The seat fell to the SDLP as the DUP ended a long standing pact with the UUP not to split the unionist vote here in Westminster elections.

Jimmy Spratt was the DUP candidate and he won 28.43% of the vote, compared to 22.68% of the vote for the UUP's Michael McGimpsey. The UUP vote fell by a substantial 22% since 2001. The change was all the more dramatic as the UUP had managed to stay ahead of the DUP in the 2003 Assembly elections with the two parties on 27% and 20.84% respectively.

Sinn Féin also saw the vote rise compared to 2001. At 9% the party was 1.37% up on 2001; the SDLP vote rose by 1.69% but it was down on the 12.55% won by Alex Maskey in the 2003 Assembly elections.

In West Belfast, Sinn Féin registered not just its highest ever vote share but the highest of the election in the Six Counties. Gerry Adams took 70% of the vote and the seat for the fifth out of six times he has stood.

Unionist confusion

East Derry registered the re-election of Gregory Campbell, with a 10.74% increase in votes. Billy Leonard won 16.08% of the vote for Sinn Féin, marginally up on 2001 and just below the 17.86% of vote first preferences won in 2003.

Sylvia Hermon was perhaps the only UUP member with a smile on her face last weekend, having been re-elected for North Down. For those of us outside of the Unionist community looking in, this is a confusing constituency.

The UK Unionists elected not to stand this time, even though they won the seat in 1997. In 2001 it was the Alliance Party who stood back to give Hermon a clear run, but they did run this time.

The DUP didn't run here in 2001, but former UUP Assembly member Peter Weir took 35.07% of the vote for the DUP this time. Don't worry if you're confused, it's probably fool's gold on this coast!

For the record, Janet McCrory polled 205 votes here for Sinn Féin.

The SDLP's Eddie McGrady won South Down for the fifth consecutive time, albeit with a marginal decrease in vote share, which at 44.75% was down 1.6% on his 2001 performance. The result was in contrast to the 2003 Assembly elections, where the SDLP vote fell to 35%.

Sinn Féin's Caitríona Ruane recorded the highest ever vote tally for Sinn Féin in South Down. The party's 12,417 vote was higher than the 2003 Assembly turnout and put Ruane at 25.77%, up over 6% on 2001, but marginally down in vote share on the 2003 performance, when Sinn Féin polled 26.48% of first preferences.

Michelle Gildernew won Fermanagh/South Tyrone for Sinn Féin by the narrowest of margins in 2001. Now, four years on, Sinn Féin's growth in the constituency is still upward. Gildernew's 18,638 votes, 38.2% of the poll, was over 4% up on 2001 and gave Sinn Féin a 4,582-vote majority, again an increase on the 2003 Assembly election result.

The DUP's Arlene Foster came in second with 28.81% of the vote, compared to 18.18% for the UUP's Tom Elliot.

Foils drawn

If Unionists were pondering the electoral battles in South Belfast and Upper Bann for the international media, especially the Dublin-based papers and news organisations, not to mention the odd Cabinet Minister or two, the focus was on Foyle, where John Hume was standing down after holding this seat since 1983.

Hume had held the seat in 2001 with an 11,550 majority and 50.20% of the vote. In the 2003 Assembly elections, the first in Foyle where Hume had not been contesting since 1973, the SDLP vote share fell to 36.14%. Sinn Féin's vote in 2003 had grown to 32.38% of the vote, up over 6% from 1998 and the 26.57% won by the party here in 2001.

The question gripping the media attention was could Sinn Féin cross the gap between the two parties and take the seat that some had felt had been specifically designed to enable a Hume election victory in 1983, when the current Foyle Constituency first came into being.

The result was a Durkan win for the SDLP, who polled 46.3% of the vote. Sinn Féin's vote share at 33.24% was virtually unchanged from the 2003 Assembly elections but what was significant was that, as was the case in South Down, the party's actual vote tally continues to rise. In 2001, Sinn Féin won 12,988 votes in Foyle compared to 13,214 in 2003 and 15,162 last week. The SDLP share has been falling across Westminster elections.

While Durkan did have a majority of 5,957, it is worth noting that some of this must have come from Ulster Unionist voters. The DUP vote at 6,557 was less than 1% down on the 2001 performance. The UUP vote fell 4.48% to 1,091, nearly 2,300 down on its 2001 performance.

When the Labour third term ends in four or five years, this constituency will perhaps provide the most interesting rematch and as Sinn Féin General Secretary Mitchel McLaughlin said at the Foyle count, the campaign to take Foyle for Sinn Féin starts here.

Donaldson's DUP turnaround

There were few who doubted that Jeffrey Donaldson wouldn't win Lagan Valley, despite shifting horses from the UUP to the DUP mid term; the question was what would his margin of victory be?

The result was a massive shift in votes from the UUP to the DUP. In 2001, Donaldson won 56.52% of the vote, the DUP came third with 13.42%. This time around the DUP won 54.7% of the votes, compared to 21.54% for the UUP.

Sinn Féin's Paul Butler, who narrowly missed out on an Assembly seat here in 2003, won 7.51% of the vote, just slightly below his 2003 showing but with a greater gap between Sinn Féin and the SDLP's Patricia Lewsley.

McGuinness hat trick

In Mid-Ulster Martin McGuiness retained his seat for the third consecutive time, with 47.64% of the vote. This was one of the few constituencies where the DUP vote fell, in this case by 7.66%, probably because the UUP didn't run here in 2001.

Newry/Armagh elected Sinn Féin's newest MP, Conor Murphy. His 41.35% was 10.41% up on 2001 and a slightly higher percentage than the 39.79% of first preferences won in 2003. The SDLP was beaten into second place on 25.19% of the vote.

The DUP's Iris Robinson also held Strangford for a second time, increasing her majority from 1,110 in 2001 to 13,049 this time. Robinson who is also an Assembly member and councillor, took 56.49% of the vote.

Sinn Féin's Dermot Kennedy won 949 votes, just over 2.56% of the total poll.

UUP and SDLP in disarray

And so it was so long to David Trimble in Upper Bann, without this time any of the acrimony outside the count centre between rival unionist groups that characterised the count here in 2001.

Trimble was well beaten into second place by the DUP's David Simpson, who won 37.55% of the vote compared to Trimble's 25.62%. Trimble had a majority in 2001 of 2,058. This time, Simpson's majority was 5,298.

Sinn Féin polled well here, with John O'Dowd winning 20.95% of the vote compared to the SDLP's 12.94%.

Sinn Féin's Pat Doherty was re-elected in West Tyrone with 38.89% of the poll, almost a repeat of the party's vote share here in the 2003 elections. The SDLP vote collapsed, as the party campaigned in disarray over the 'would or wouldn't they' support Kieran Deeny, the not so independent Independent candidate.

Deeny took 27.38% of the vote compared to 9.08% for the SDLP, who saw their vote share drop by nearly 20% of the total poll.

• East Antrim 1st Preferences

Beggs, Roy UUP 8,462

Kerr, David - 147

McKeown, James SF 828

Neeson, Sean AP 4,869

O'Connor, Danny SDLP 1,695

Wilson, Sammy DUP 15,766 (Elected)

• North Antrim

Dunlop, Jayne AP 1,357

Farren, Sean SDLP 5,585

McCune, Rodney UUP 6,637

McGuigan, Philip SF 7,191

Paisley, Ian DUP 25,156 (Elected)

• South Antrim

Burnside, David UUP 11,059

Cushinan, Henry SF 4,407

Ford, David AP 3,278

McClelland, Noreen SDLP 4,706

McCrea, William DUP 14,507 (Elected)

• Belfast East

Bell, Joseph - 179

Devenny, Deborah SF 1,029

Empey, Reg UUP 9,275

Gilby, Lynda - 172

Greer, Alan - 434

Long, Naomi AP 3,746

Muldoon, Mary SDLP 844

Robinson, Peter DUP 15,152 (Elected)

• Belfast North

Cobain, Fred UUP 2,154

Delaney, Marcella - 165

Dodds, Nigel DUP 13,935 (Elected)

Gilby, Lynda - 151

Hawkins, Marjorie AP 438

Kelly, Gerry SF 8,747

Maginness, Alban SDLP 4,950

• Belfast South

Gilby, Lynda - 235

Lynn, Patrick - 193

Maskey, Alex SF 2,882

McDonnell, Alasdair SDLP 10,339 (Elected)

McGimpsey, Michael UUP 7,263

Rice, Geraldine AP 2,012

Spratt, Jimmy DUP 9,104

• Belfast West

Adams, Gerry SF 24,348 (Elected)

Attwood, Alex SDLP 5,033

Dodds, Diane DUP 3,652

Gilby, Lynda - 154

Kennedy, Liam - 147

Lowry, John - 432

McGimpsey, Christopher UUP 779

• East Derry

Boyle, Yvonne AP 924

Campbell, Gregory DUP 15,225 (Elected)

Dallat, John SDLP 6,077

Leonard, Billy SF 5,709

McClarty, David UUP 7,498

Samuel, Malcolm Harry - 71

• Foyle

Durkan, Mark SDLP 21,119 (Elected)

Hay, William DUP 6,557

McCann, Eamonn - 1,649

McLaughlin, Mitchel SF 15,162

Reel, Ben - 31

Storey, Earl UUP 1,091

• LAGAN VALLEY 1st Preferences

Butler, Paul SF 3,197

Close, Séamus AP 431

Donaldson, Jeffrey DUP 23,289 (Elected)

Lewsley, Patricia SDLP 2,598

McCrea, Basil UUP 9,172

• Mid-Ulster

Armstrong, Billy UUP 4,853

Donnelly, Francis - 345

McCrea, Ian DUP 10,665

McGlone, Patsy SDLP 7,922

McGuinness, Martin SF 21,641 (Elected)

• Newry & Armagh

Berry, Paul DUP 9,311

Bradley, Dominic SDLP 12,770

Kennedy, Danny UUP 7,025

Markey, Gerry - 625

Murphy, Conor SF 20,965 (Elected)

• Strangford

Boyle, Joe SDLP 2,496

Dick, Terry - 1,462

Kennedy, Dermot SF 949

McCarthy, Kieran AP 3,332

McGimpsey, Gareth UUP 7,872

Robinson, Iris DUP 20,921 (Elected)

• Upper Bann

Castle, Alan AP 955

French, Tom - 355

Kelly, Dolores SDLP 5,747

O'Dowd, John SF 9,305

Simpson, David DUP 16,679 (Elected)

Trimble, David UUP 11,281

• West Tyrone 1st Preferences

Buchanan, Thomas DUP 7,742

Deeny, Kieran - 11,905

Doherty, Pat SF 16,960 (Elected)

Hussey, Derek UUP 2,981

McMenamin, Eugene SDLP 3,949

• Fermanagh & South Tyrone 1st Preferences

Elliott, Thomas UUP 8,869

Foster, Arlene DUP 14,056

Gallagher, Tommy SDLP 7,230

Gildernew, Michelle SF 18,638 (Elected)

• South Down 1st Preferences

Crozier, Julian AP 613

McGrady, Eddie SDLP 21,557 (Elected)

Nesbitt, Dermot UUP 4,775

Ruane, Caitríona SF 12,417

Wells, Jim DUP 8,815

• North Down 1st Preferences

Alderdice, David AP 2,451

Carter, Christopher - 211

Hermon, Sylvia UUP 16,268 (Elected)

Logan, Liam SDLP 1,009

McCrory, Janet SF 205

Robertson, Julian - 822

Weir, Peter DUP 11,324


Seats won 5 3 1 9 0 0

Vote share 24.46% 17.6% 17.84% 33.89% 3.42% 2.79%

Seats won

(2001) 4 3 6 5 0 0

Vote share

(2001) 21.70% 21.00% 26.80% 22.50% 3.60% 3.91%


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1