Assembly Election

West Tyrone: Sinn Fein success story

FIST PUMPS: Above, left, Barry McElduff and Michaela Boyle celebrate at the count and, right, Declan McAleer punches the air in delight at being elected Pictures: Mark Marlow/Pacemaker

Election hub: Full West Tyrone results

Sinn Féin reigned supreme in West Tyrone once again as the party tightened its firm grip on the rural constituency.

In a narrow finish at the Omagh Leisure Centre it was the Ulster Unionist Party who lost its sole representation as newcomer Alicia Clarke fell at the hands of an energised nationalist vote. Republicans polled almost half of the first preference vote, an increase of more than 5,000 in the space of just 10 months.

The “greater nationalist switch-on” allowed Barry McElduff and Michaela Boyle past the 7,388 quota at the first time of asking, with Declan McAleer completing the line-up late on to raucous celebrations.

Mr McElduff said West Tyrone was one of the party’s major success stories.

“To win three out of five seats in my opinion is a significant achievement. On this occasion the nationalist and republican voter was switched on and connected to this election in a way that didn’t happen last May,” he said.

“As far back as early February, even late January, people were itching, were very anxious to get casting their vote.”

Like constituencies across the north, West Tyrone saw a significant jump in turnout with almost 70 per cent (44,907) voting, a 10 per cent rise on May last year.

Topping the poll this time around was the DUP’s Thomas Buchanan with 9,064 first preference votes. In his victory speech he described the result as a “wake-up call” for unionists.

“The Democratic Unionist Party is the voice for unionism here in West Tyrone. Let this be a wake-up call to the unionist people within West Tyrone and let all the other unionist parties now come and work with us as the Democratic Unionist Party. Rather than working against us, work with us, because united we stand,” he said.

The SDLP’s Daniel McCrossan and Declan McAleer were officially declared just after 10pm as the final two elected to conclude relatively swift proceedings for the area, the former just passing the quota after polling 6,283 first preference votes.

In his final address Mr McCrossan said that Arlene Foster and the DUP had driven out the nationalist vote.

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