Assembly Election

South Down: Jim Wells says election is 'nicest, friendliest' but Sinn Féin top poll

The DUP's Jim Wells follows the South Down count 
Marie Louise McConville

Sinn Fein are celebrating an “historic election” in South Down after topping the poll in the constituency for the first time in 10 years.

Newcomer, Sinead Ennis polled an impressive 10,256 first preference votes, just one month before she gives birth to her second child, and was the first elected in the constituency.

Also elected on the first count was party colleague, former Infrastructure minister, Chris Hazzard who polled 8,827, compared to 5,045 last year.

The pair’s performance meant the Sinn Fein vote increased by more than 6,000 votes since last May.

Having taken the place vacated by Caitríona Ruane, who had served the constituency for 14 years but who announced she would not be running this time around, Ms Ennis,  a 33-year-old mother-of-one said she was “thrilled” to be elected.

“I’m so delighted for the whole team,” she said.

“We are just on a high. Topping the poll is never really on the agenda. It’s about increasing our mandate in South Down.

“We didn’t expect it to be this good. Caitríona has been there all along, a great supporter and a great mentor. I want to contribute in any way possible”.

DUP stalwart, Jim Wells also polled well, as expected, pulling in 7,786, up from 5,033 last May.

The former Health Minister, who is contesting his 17th election, said his party were “very happy” with its performance, adding that it was the “nicest, friendliest election I’ve ever had”.

The long-standing politician, who referred to himself as “the father of the house”, said the RHI scandal had not been an issue on the doorstep, describing it as “the flame that never burned in South Down”.

The SDLP’s Sinead Bradley also polled well, with 7,323 first preference votes, compared to 5,059 in 2016.

The count came on the day her father, PJ Bradley, a 76-year-old, who served as a Newry and Mourne District councillor for 24 years and represented South Down as an assembly member from 1998 to 2011, was laid to rest.

There was also a good show for the Alliance’s Patrick Brown, who more than doubled his vote.

He polled 4,535 first preference votes compared to last year’s 2,200.

Counting continues at Lagan Valley LeisurePlex.

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