Arlene survives but DUP lose ground in Fermanagh South Tyrone

Pictured is First Minister Arlene Foster as she is elected for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Picture by Mark Marlow/pacemaker press.
Gareth McKeown

Amidst the jubilation of Arlene Foster topping the poll yet again, the DUP lost its chairman in Fermanagh South Tyrone last night.

The DUP leader polled 8,479 first preference votes, 332 less than last year, but was the first over the line, narrowly missing the quota of 8,711. Her party colleague Maurice Morrow lost out.

“Nothing stays the same forever, change comes, change happens, now I'm on the receiving end of that change,” Mr Morrow said after his narrow defeat.

“My effort wasn't enough this time to get it over the line, but I want to make it clear I have total and absolute confidence in Arlene Foster as the leader of this party, she's a wonderful person,” he added.

The DUP party leader described her colleague as a “mentor” and maintained her success showed the election was not about the renewable heat scandal.

"It may have been the excuse, but it certainly wasn't the cause and we've seen that. The cause of the election was Sinn Féin and republicanism wanting to rerun last year's election. They have done that and they have mobilized their vote in a very effective way and as I've been saying throughout this election campaign it was going to be very close and so it has been the case, but I'm pleased that the DUP has come out as the largest party in terms of votes," she said.

Elation for one DUP candidate, but dejection for another as Maurice Morrow lost a seat he had held since devolution began in 1998.

Initially polling 7,102 first preference votes, he fell behind after more than 1,000 transfers from the SDLP's Richie McPhillips brought Rosemary Barton towards the verge of the quota in line for re-election.

Mr McPhillips, who produced one of the shocks of the election when he took a seat last May ahead of Sinn Féin's John Feely, was eliminated at the second stage, with a mobilised Sinn Féin support yielding more than 3,000 extra first preference votes squeezing him out.

At stage three the SDLP's transfers brought former agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew and newcomer Jemma Dolan over the line leaving it for Rosemary Barton and Sean Lynch to complete the line-up.

A delighted Mr Lynch said a mobilized nationalist vote and anger at the arrogance of the DUP fuelled the successful election.

Perhaps this 'arrogance' was best shown as the party's representatives left the Omagh Leisure just as Sean Lynch went to deliver his election speech.

"See you later Alligator," he said to cheers from the Sinn Féin faithful.

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