Speedy North Down count sees three elected early
IN STARK contrast to last May – when it was one of the slowest counts in Northern Ireland – three MLAs were elected in North Down before lunchtime.
However, the DUP’s Alex Easton proved the old adage that some things never change, comfortably topping the poll in a repeat of the 2016 result.
The constituency, where one in two voters did not cast a ballot last May, saw a 10 per cent increase in voter turnout.
Mr Easton added almost 2,000 extra first preference votes to last year’s total of more than 6,000, with his party colleague Gordon Dunne also polling strongly.
After the first count, Mr Dunne was less than 200 votes off the quota and was easily carried through by the transfers of his party colleague.
Alan Chambers (UUP) and former Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry, who had endured a battle for their seats last year, had no such problems on this occasion, each more than doubling their vote and being elected at the first stage.
Alliance MLA Stephen Farry told The Irish News: “Last year (the tight finish for Alliance) was the product of running two candidates. The seat in North Down has been a fairly secure seat for us. The combined non-unionist vote in North Down is pushing close to 40 per cent this year.
“Kellie Armstrong is polling very well in Strangford and the gap over the SDLP there is well over 3,000. It is a spectacular achievement.
Mr Farry added: “However, across Northern Ireland we are seeing the two main parties dominating once again and that will pose major challenges.”
The Green Party leader, Steven Agnew, also enjoyed a vote increase, although remains short of the vote quota.
Outside of the first five candidates, just Melanie Kennedy, an independent, secured more than 1,000 votes.
The combined SDLP and Sinn Féin vote was just over 1,300 and while an improvement on last year, it was not enough to make any effective impact on the vote.
It looks a long way back for Ms Kennedy and the remaining candidates and the safe bet will be on the remaining seat being filled soon by Steven Agnew.