Assembly Election

Dolores Kelly 'gutted' at defeat after marathon Upper Bann count

 SDLP deputy leader Dolores Kelly’s 23-year political career appears to be over (Picture by Mal McCann)

FORMER SDLP deputy leader Dolores Kelly’s 23-year political career appears to be over after she surrendered her Upper Bann seat to at the end of a marathon count in Banbridge.

Sinn Fein eventually returned both its candidates, with John O’Dowd and Catherine Seeley being the last two of the 108 Stormont MLAs formally declared elected, hours after the votes were counted in every other constituency.

At one stage in a tension-filled process it appeared that outgoing education minister O’Dowd would create this election’s major headline with a shock exit.

But ultimately he had 160-odd votes to spare over Kelly, and despite having topped the poll in 2011, he squeaked home well short of the quota.

“They said two Sinn Fein candidates being returned in Upper Bann was impossible, but we made it possible,” a jubilant O’Dowd said.

For Kelly, who’s been central to the SDLP since 1993, she said she was “absolutely gutted” and would take time with her family to reflect on what comes next.

DUP golden girl Carla Lockhart had breezed home on Friday night, joined by party colleague Sydney Anderson.

In a seemingly interminable session on Saturday which ran from 9am until nearly 5pm, the UUP’s Jo-Anne Dobson was returned on transfers from the TUV.

She was later joined eventually by running mate and former soldier Doug Beattie, who wasn’t at the count because he was attending the funeral of his 15-month-old grandson.

That left Seeley and O’Dowd to be deemed elected without a quota at the expense of Kelly.

During the acceptance speeches, which were conducted in a spirit of bonhomie unlike previous wrap-ups in Upper Bann, each of the successful candidates paid emotional tributes to Mr Beattie on his tragic bereavement.

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