Northern Ireland news

Chris Hazzard holds South Down as Alliance share grows

Safe seat: Sinn Féin's Chris Hazzard held South Down. Picture by Liam McBurney
Paul Ainsworth

SINN Féin enjoyed a comfortable win in South Down thanks to a 32 per cent vote share for Chris Hazzard, but both the incumbent MP and former seat holders the SDLP saw their overall support shrink in the face of Alliance growth.

Hazzard's share fell from just under 40 per cent in 2017, when he took the seat from the SDLP's Margaret Ritchie, but the drop wasn't enough to cost Sinn Féin their hold of the constituency, with the returning MP insisting the people of South Down had "stood up" to makes their voices heard amidst the "Brexit catastrophe".

The SDLP's Michael Savage, despite failing to regain the seat for his party, put up a decent challenge by claiming 14,517 votes behind Hazzard's 16,137.

Savage's second-place finish earned praise from the SDLP's partnership party in the south. Fianna Fáil, with leader Micheál Martin describing it as a "huge result", but the SDLP's share in the constituency fell by six per cent.

Some of that support was soaked up by Paul Brady, who stood for anti-abortion party Aontú in their first UK General Election and won a 2.5 percent share of the vote, but the biggest increase from the 2017 poll here went to Alliance Party candidate Patrick Brown.

Despite never seriously challenging Sinn Féin's dominance in South Down, Brown forced the Alliance share up from 2017's 3.6 per cent, when Andrew McMurray, now a Newry, Mourne and Down councillor, earned 1,814 votes.

The 6,916 votes this time around will further boost the party's confidence following its victory in North Down, where Stephen Farry landed the seat long-held by the departing Lady Sylvia Hermon.

However the Alliance increase was not enough to beat the DUP into third place, as Mournes councillor Glyn Hanna finished with 6,916 votes.

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist Party can soothe the sores of another bruising election that has failed to return them to Westminster with a rise in the South Down vote share of 2.7 per cent.

Candidate Jill Macauley finished with 3,307 ballot papers crossed in her favour, up from the 2,002 won by the UUP's Harold McKee in 2017. McKee's result 30 months before was a blow to a party already suffering a poor election, as it was a significant drop of 5.4 percent from 2015, when the UUP finished third in South Down, ahead of their DUP rivals for the unionist vote.

CANDIDATE VOTE % CHANGE SINCE 2017

Chris Hazzard (SF) 16,137 (32.4%) -7.5%

Michael Savage (SDLP) 14,517 (29.2%) -6.0%

Glyn Hanna (DUP) 7,619 (15.3%) -2.1%

Patrick Brown (ALL) 6,916 (13.9%) +10.3%

Jill Macauley (UUP) 3,307 (6.6%) +2.7%

Paul Brady (Aontú) 1,266 (2.5%) +2.5%

Electorate: 79,175

Turnout: 49,971 (63%) -4.4%

Majority: 1,620

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