A picture largely unchanged in North Belfast
A LOT of people had a lot of contrasting views about what might happen in North Belfast. But most agreed the picture would probably remain largely the same, albeit with the odd twist and turn, and they were proved right.
Strong Sinn Féin and DUP performances were expected with five of the six elected last time back – all bar Alban Maginness who was replaced on the ticket by former lord mayor Nichola Mallon.
Slightly more than half of those eligible turned out to vote this time – 52.48 per cent. And after the first count, Gerry Kelly from Sinn Féin was elected as expected with his party colleague Carál Ní Chuilín close behind. Stages two, three, four and five failed to return another candidate but the DUP's William Humphrey, Nelson McCausland and Paula Bradley all eventually made it over the line.
Observers had initially suggested the DUP was somewhat fortunate to win a third seat in 2011 and the party was vulnerable this time to a resurgent UUP or the PUP.
However, the UUP’s Lesley Carroll, one of the north’s best-known female clerics, did not do as well as she might have hoped, collecting fewer than 2,000 first preferences. This left her a long way behind the DUP candidates who all secured more than 4,000 each. The PUP’s Billy Hutchinson did worse again with 1,286.
While the party put forward its leader, it was suggested it could equally have given Oldpark councillor Julie-Anne Corr Johnston the nod. The SDLP held its one seat having fielded the high profile Nichola Mallon. She received 3,866 first preferences. It was said that if the party performed poorly, however, a fourth unionist or even Alliance’s Nuala McAllister, a councillor for Castle, would be waiting to pounce but the challenge failed to come to anything.
With 2,569 votes at the end of the first stage, Ms McAllister was left needing a substantial number of transfers. While People Before Profit was not expected to make a significant dent in north Belfast, Fiona Ferguson polled nearly 1,300 votes.
Elected: Gerry Kelly (SF), Carál Ní Chuilín (SF), William Humphrey (DUP), Nelson McCausland (DUP), Paula Bradley (DUP), Nichola Mallon (SDLP).