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#AE17: Nelson McCausland the big name casualty in North Belfast

Out in North Belfast: Nelson McCausland Picture by Hugh Russell 

North Belfast was a similar story to the rest of Northern Ireland in this historic snap election, with the higher voter turnout giving nationalist candidates a boost at the expense of the unionist parties.

In a day of disappointment for unionism it was hard line DUP man Nelson McCausland who was the big name casualty.

The outspoken Orangeman marched from the Titanic Exhibition Centre unamused, leaving his surplus votes to get party members William Humphrey and Paula Bradley across the line.

Ms Bradley made an easy quota with 8458 votes by the third count, courtesy of Mr McCausland's demise.

William Humphrey, who remains popular with working class voters in north Belfast, also made the quota with his colleague's surplus, declared elected with 7276 votes.

Speaking afterwards he said while "delighted to be reelected" it was "tinged with sadness" given the elimination of his "friend and colleague".

"Nelson McCausland, has been a friend for over 25 years and to lose someone of his ability is a big loss", he said.

"It's worth noting that UUP transfers went to Nuala McAllister (Alliance), our policy is always DUP first and then other pro union parties.

"Had that been the case with the UUP then Nelson McCausland would still be in the mix", he added.

There had been earlier speculation that Sinn Féin's Carál Ní Chuilín might struggle given the lack of available transfers and the complicated single transferable vote system, however, her seat was safe, elected just after 11pm without reaching quota.

Caral Ni Chuilin and Gerry Kelly celebrate with party members after being elected in North Belfast. picture by Hugh Russell.

Gerry Kelly had topped the poll with 6275 votes on the first count.

While one of the last constituencies to be called in Belfast's count centre, even the protracted tally process couldn't dampen Sinn Féin's spirits, with this their best election result since the restoration of devolution ten years ago.

The SDLP's Nichola Mallon played a blinder in opposition and her visible presence on the ground and relentless canvassing, despite being heavily pregnant, paid off.

Having struggled to fill the sixth seat in the 2016 poll, she was easily elected this time out with 6692 votes by the sixth count.

Saying she felt "much more relaxed" than during last May's election given the relative ease of her return to office.

All three nationalists were elected at stage seven of the count.

Making the total two DUP, two Sinn Féin and one SDLP, the first time there has been a nationalist majority in the constituency since devolution.

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