Assembly Election

#AE17 Mid Ulster: Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill tops the polls with major victory

Michelle O'Neill is lifted into the air in Mid-Ulster after her election victory
Connla Young

AS expected Sinn Féin’s new leader in the north Michelle O’Neill swept to victory in Mid-Ulster.

With 10,285 first preference votes the Co Tyrone woman took hammered home a spectacular return on her first electoral outing in charge of the republican party.

She was joined by DUP man Keith Buchanan who also stormed home on the first count with 9,568 first preference votes.

A short time later Sinn Féin made it a clean sweep when veteran republican Ian Milne and Linda Dillon were both returned to Stormont.

An unexpected controversy early in the day centred on Alliance Party candidate Fay Watson who was refused entry to the Ballymena count centre with her six-month-old son who she breast feeds.

The 34-year-old mum-of-one was told by staff in Ballymena that she wouldn’t be allowed to take the toddler into the count area but it was OK to leave him in a café at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre.

It was only after the angry Alliance woman threatened to lodge a formal complaint that staff eventually relented.

“I was told my baby could go to the café and I could go to the count,” she said.

“I was shocked at first but was more and more upset as I talked to other people about it,”

And as if that controversy wasn’t enough, later in the day election staff refused to allow Sinn Féin’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill into the count centre after she forgot to bring ID with her.

Party colleagues eventually came to the rescue with her handbag and the all important ID.

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Assembly Election