Assembly Election

Bitter sweet election day for Sinead Bradley

PACEMAKER BELFAST 03/03/2017.South DOwn Sinn Fein Chris Hazzard and Sinead Ennis.
Marie Louise McConville

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Despite the absence of Caitríona Ruane, who had held a seat in the constituency for 14 years, Sinn Féin topped the poll for the first time in a decade.

Newcomer, Sinead Ennis polled 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 Féin vote increased by more than 6,000 votes since last May.

Describing the performance as a “watershed moment”, Ms Ennis said Sinn Féin was “ready to do business”.

However, running mate Chris Hazzard offered a stark warning.

“There will be no bending and there will be no return to the status quo,” he said.

Elected on the third count was the SDLP’s Sinead Bradley, who polled 7,323 first preference votes.

SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie celebrates the election of party colleague Sinead Bradley, who could not attend the South Down count because of her father's funeral

However, Ms Bradley was not present at Lagan Valley LeisurePlex to celebrate her win as the count took place on the same day her father, PJ Bradley, a former SDLP councillor and MLA, was laid to rest.

The funeral of former SDLP MLA PJ Bradley in Burren, Co Down. Picture by Mal McCann

DUP stalwart, Jim Wells, who was contesting his 17th election, was elected on the fifth count, having polled 7,786 first preference votes, up from 5,033 last May.

He said his party was “very happy” with its performance.

“Sinn Fein saw this as a way of breaking the back of unionism,” he said.

“Arlene Foster is still there, going forward”.

The final seat in the constituency went to the SDLP’s Colin McGrath, who was elected on the seventh count.

There was, however, disappointment for the UUP’s Harold McKee, who lost his seat and was excluded at the fourth count.

When asked about his future, he added: “I’ve no plans. I haven’t really thought of anything so I might just take a break away.”

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