Northern Ireland news

West Belfast: Paul Maskey vote down but holds seat comfortably

Paul Maskey (centre) celebrating with Michelle O'Neill and his brother, Alex Maskey after retaining the west Belfast Westminster seat. Picture: Hugh Russell
Marie Louise McConville

As predicted, west Belfast ended the election night as it began - with a Sinn Féin MP.

Having held the Westminster seat for the constituency since 2011, Paul Maskey comfortably retook it with 20,866 votes, with no other candidate coming anywhere close.

But despite celebrations at his success at taking more than 53 per cent of the vote in west Belfast, it was noted that his vote share was down 12.9 per cent on 2017.

Speaking after securing his 14,672 majority, Mr Maskey praised all those who had helped him win.

"I want to thank the proud people of West Belfast for supporting Sinn Féin and supporting myself again," he said.

"We fought a very positive campaign and we received support for that".

Mr Maskey said West Belfast was "changing" with the lowest unemployment rate in years and the highest education attainment for generations.

"This election in Belfast sends a clear message to the Tories that we're here and we're not going away and our voice is going to be heard loud and clear. It has been heard in England, in London, in America and on this island and we will make sure our voice is heard".

Finishing second in the race was People Before Profit candidate, Gerry Carroll, who secured 6,194 votes, increasing his vote share by 5.8 per cent.

Some of those supporting Mr Carroll wore tops supporting industrial action currently being taken by nurses and healthcare staff.

Mr Carroll said: "Parties threw everything at us, it was a dirty tricks campaign but our vote in West Belfast went up by 2,000," he said.

DUP candidate Frank McCoubrey, a well-known Belfast councillor, finished third with 5,220 votes while the SDLP's Paul Doherty, who is well-known in west Belfast as the organiser of the Foodstock festival which supports local foodbanks, finished in fourth place with 2,985, an increase of 0.7 per cent on 2017.

Former Sinn Fein councillor, Monica Digney, who secured 1,635 votes for pro-life party, Aontu, said she was "so relieved" the election was over, adding that the party had not expected to "top any polls" rather "maximise the vote".

Donnamarie Higgins, a mother-of-three, who was standing for the Alliance Party, won 1,882 votes, increasing the party's share in west Belfast minimally by 3.1 per cent.

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CANDIDATE VOTE % change since 2017

Paul Maskey (SF) 20,866 (53.8%) -12.9

Gerry Carroll (PBP) 6,194 (16%) +5.8

Frank McCoubrey (DUP) 5,220 (13.5%) 0.0

Paul Doherty (SDLP) 2,985 (7.7%) +0.7

Donnamarie Higgins (All) 1,882 (4.9%) +3.1

Monica Digney (Aontu) 1,635 (4.2%) +4.2

Electorate 65,644

Turnout 38,988 (59.39%) -6.0%

Majority 14,672

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