Alliance left to wait for final gain in North Belfast
ALLIANCE had to wait until Saturday evening to celebrate its final gain of the election.
Nuala McAllister had been neck and neck with SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon for much of the count.
At one point the gap stood at just 99 votes, but it was the Alliance candidate who proved more transfer friendly, taking more votes from Green Party and UUP supporters.
While she failed to hit the quota, Ms McAllister had a sizeable lead over her SDLP rival by the end.
In truth, there was little optimism in the SDLP camp of holding the seat camp throughout the Friday and Saturday count.
Speaking after she was finally declared at 6pm on Saturday, Ms McAllister said: “I’m just absolutely elated.
“The message is pretty clear, that Alliance really are the force of positive, progressive politics and want to deliver right across Northern Ireland, and we’ll certainly do that,” she said.
“I’m just over the moon and excited and really want to get stuck in. I’ve been doing this for a long time and never given up, because it’s something I truly believe in. Alliance isn’t just something that I work for, it’s something that I am and I want to progress that shared future in Northern Ireland.”
New DUP MLA Phillip Brett dedicated his win to his late father Michael, who died in 2007, and to his brother Gavin, who was gunned down by the UDA next to St Enda’s GAA club in Glengormley in 2001.
His DUP colleague Brian Kingston said unionist voters in North Belfast had spoken and backed the DUP. But in a reference to the decline in the DUP’s vote elsewhere, the new MLA said: “in the wider election across this province we have seen the consequence of division in the unionist vote, resulting in seats being lost for unionist.
“That is a luxury we cannot afford and is an issue which all unionist parties must address.”
Finally declared some 27 hours after being elected on the first count with Carál Ní Chuilín, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly hailed the “outstanding” organisation of the party in managing its vote in the constituency.
“This is a democratic vote as has been in every other constituency,” he said. “And all that I would ask, is that those who are elected, act on that democratic vote, that we do get in, set up the executive and that we move ahead for the people who elected us to do that very job.”