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Constituency Profile: Paul Maskey of Sinn Féin holds on to West Belfast seat

John Monaghan

THIRTY-FOUR years to the day since Gerry Adams first captured the West Belfast seat for Sinn Féin, his successor as MP delivered the party's highest ever vote in the constituency.

With bookmakers offering £1 back for every £200 placed on Mr Maskey being returned, a Sinn Féin victory was a foregone conclusion, but it was the margin of their win which capped a resounding night for the party.

With a 12.5% increase in its vote and a gap of 21,652 on the DUP - whose candidate Frank McCoubrey took second place ahead of People Before Profit's Gerry Carroll - Mr Maskey enjoys the largest majority of the north's 18 MPs.

It marked a huge upturn in fortunes for Sinn Féin since the last Westminster election in 2015, when Paul Maskey's vote dropped almost 17 per cent from five years previously.

Mr Maskey said that his 27,000 votes were "no fluke" and were "down to hard work and delivery".

It was another major setback for Mr Carroll, who fell from the heady heights of the May 2016 Assembly election, when he topped the poll with more than 8,000 votes, to just over half that total this time around.

At 65%, the turnout was similar to March's Assembly election, when Sinn Féin took four out of the five seats.

Many have cited People Before Profit's pro-Brexit stance ahead of the EU referendum last June, coupled with the popularity of Sinn Féin's withdrawal from Stormont earlier this year in republican heartlands, as the reasons for the change in the mood music.

For a full list of results click here.

Mr Carroll said his party had been squeezed by the polarisation of the north's political system "in the context of where the election became about the two biggest parties".

The DUP's Frank McCoubrey hailed the doubling of his party's vote as a great "night for unionism" before adding, somewhat over optimistically, that the result showed that the DUP were "knocking on the door" in West Belfast.

The days when the SDLP posed any serious challenge in this constituency are but a distant memory, with a further decline, of almost three per cent in its vote from 2015, rounding off a miserable night for the party across the north.

Tim Attwood, the brother of Alex, who lost his Assembly seat here in March, polled just under 3,000 votes to finish fourth behind the DUP and People Before Profit.

Sorcha Eastwood, who was preoccupied with the small matter of her own wedding on polling day, received 731 votes, while the Worker's Party Conor Campbell picked up just 348 votes.

Name                                           Party                          Votes                                 %                 +/-
Paul Maskey                                 Sinn Féin                    27,107                               66.7              +12.5
Frank McCoubrey                          DUP                            5,455                                13.4               +5.6
Gerry Carroll                                 People Before Profit       4,132                                10.2               -9.1
Tim Attwood                                 SDLP                            2,860                                7.0                -2.8
Sorcha Eastwood                          Alliance                         731                                   1.8                 no change
Conor Campbell                             Workers Party               348                                   0.9               -0.8

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