Assembly Election

SDLP's Joe Boyle reminds voters ‘nobody died' after poll defeat

SDLP councillor Joe Boyle suffered a fourth consecutive assembly election defeat last week. Picture by Bill Smyth
John Monaghan

SDLP councillor Joe Boyle has said he had to remind supporters that "nobody had died" following his fourth unsuccessful attempt at an assembly seat.

The Ards and North Down councillor narrowly missed out again on Friday, pipped at the post by UUP candidate Philip Smith to the sixth seat in Strangford.

Mr Boyle told The Irish News: "It was unbelievable when I came home - people were coming to me under the auspices of a wake house.

"The outpouring of grief from them was making me feel worse than when I was in the Aurora Leisure Centre."

He added: "I had to tell people it was an election, that nobody had died here."

The Portaferry man, who came within 31 votes of being elected to Stormont in 2007, praised the Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt who offered his comiserations following his fourth consecutive defeat.

"I was comforted when Mike Nesbitt spoke like that because he didn't need to do that," said Mr Boyle.

"The calls, emails and texts I have received from unionist colleagues have also lifted me.

"Philip Smith is a lovely guy, and as they say, if you're going to lose something, lose it to a good lad."

The odds of getting a nationalist MLA elected in Strangford are set to lengthen with each assembly constituency set to lose a seat at the next election.

"If there isn't going to be a boundary change, it would disenfranchise anyone thinking of challenging for a nationalist seat in Strangford," said Mr Boyle.

"However, those who voted for me - whether a personal or party vote - deserve representation and if it isn't me then the SDLP should still field a candidate. Where I'll be in five years time I don't know.

"I think if you were going to play a game where one team has 13 players and the other team has two then you might ask what are your chances? I am stuck in the bastion of unionism."

Mr Boyle added: "What really knocked us back was the boundary change in 2007. If Carryduff had stayed in, then I think we would be looking at a seat today."

The SDLP councillor said it "wasn’t a great election" for his party generally.

"Colum has come in at a difficult time but there has been a lot of youthful candidates who have got across the line in the assembly election," he said.

Looking ahead, he expects life in the Ards peninsula to "return to normal" again.

"People are calmer in the Ards peninsula now and things are getting back to normal. By next week we should be there," he joked.

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