South Belfast: Green Party's Clare Bailey takes final seat in 3am nail-biter
THE Green Party’s Clare Bailey secured the final seat of the election in a nail-biting 3am result.
Cheers erupted from beaming party activists and an ecstatic Ms Bailey punched the air as her re-election for South Belfast was confirmed.
On Twitter, “#awake4bailey” began trending overnight as supporters stayed up through the early hours awaiting the outcome.
Ms Bailey, pictured, said her re-election was important as it prevented Stormont’s petition of concern being used by any single party without the support of others.
Ahead of the announcement, she changed into a black top that read ‘trust women’ – a slogan adopted by campaigners in favour of abortion reform in Northern Ireland.
“The very last ballot that was counted to secure a seat in the assembly election 2017 was a vote for a woman and a party who trust women,” she said.
“We have secured a seat that removes a party veto from any single party at the assembly being able to use the petition of concern ... I think that’s a victory, and one worth staying up for.”
It was thought the final seat would be won either by the Greens or a second DUP candidate.
But in a surprise twist, it became a voting-transfer battle with the Ulster Unionists whose candidate Michael Henderson polled better than pundits expected.
The DUP nabbed two seats last year, but former party special adviser Emma Little Pengelly lost out in her re-election bid after Mr Henderson pulled ahead on transfers.
Her colleague Christopher Stalford retained his seat on the ninth count alongside Ms Bailey.
He received 4,529 first preferences compared to 4,446 for Ms Little Pengelly, Ms Bailey on 4,247 and Mr Henderson’s 3,863 votes.
Sinn Féin’s Máirtín Ó Muilleoir was greeted with the roars of cheering supporters as he earlier topped the poll.
He was re-elected on the first count with 7,610 first preferences – more than 400 above the quota of 7,176 and an increase of more than 2,000 on his vote last year.
“We are in surreal territory, Sinn Féin in South Belfast topping the poll, having a surplus to re-distribute – I didn’t imagine any of that,” he said.
The SDLP’s Claire Hanna received the second largest number of first-preferences with 6,559, while Alliance’s Paula Bradshaw came third with 5,595.
The pair were re-elected on the sixth count.