Martin McGuinness and Colum Eastwood neck and neck in Foyle
Deputy first minister Martin McGuinness topped the poll in his native Derry but only just, with 37 votes to spare over SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood.
McGuinness recorded 5,037 while Eastwood had 5,000 first preferences. The first preference returns would appear to vindicate Sinn Fein’s decision to move McGuinness from Mid Ulster to his native Derry city.
While the battle of the nationalist leaders was the pre-election interest, it is the performance of Eamonn McCann of People before Profit which is whetting the appetite in Foyle.
The veteran campaigner polled extremely well in first preferences. On 4,176 votes, he is expected to be in contention for the final seat later tonight.
That could spell trouble for the SDLP. While the party recorded the highest number of first choices in Derry, former mayor, Gerard Diver’s first preferences were disappointing. Diver was co-opted onto the Assembly team to replace Pat Ramsey who retired.
With just 2,700 first preferences, he looks vulnerable. However, if he remains in the contest long enough, he may attract transfers although it will be a nail-biting wait.
A row within the DUP over Maurice Devenney appears not to have dented the party’s hopes of retaining the one unionist seat in Derry. While Devenney’s decision to stand as an independent against his former colleague has cut the DUP vote, it looks likely that Gary Middleton will get over the winner’s line.