Foyle boxes last to arrive at Meadowbank count centre in Magherafelt

Counting gets underway at 12:30am

Counting in Foyle eventually gets underway.
Counting in Foyle eventually gets underway.

The polls closed at 10.00pm - but all the ballot boxes from Foyle did not arrive at Magherafelt’s Meadowbank count centre until 12.30am.

At the launch of his party’s manifesto, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and incumbent MP, described Foyle as a “two-horse race” between himself and Sinn Féin’s Sandra Duffy.

But if early indications of how it would go were hoped for those watching could only be guaranteed a late night.

Given Eastwood beat Sinn Féin’s 2019 Westminster, and then sitting MP, Elisha McCallion, by 17,110 votes, this comment might suggest he sensed the Foyle sands had shifted in the intervening five years – away from the SDLP towards Sinn Féin.

Maybe it was simply electioneering on Eastwood’s part, possibly trying to galvanise traditional SDLP voters, or even, a dog whistle attempt to get a X from Unionist voters, by attempting to persuade them a vote for new dad, Gary Middleton (DUP) or Janice Montgomery (UUP) was not going to get either into Westminster, and would be better going to him instead.

Middleton received 4,101 first preference votes in the 2022 Assembly election in Foyle, taking the fifth seat.

In the 2023 Local Government elections, the DUP received 7,955 first preference votes.

Even a percentage of such votes going to Eastwood would bolster his chances of retaining the Foyle seat.

As would a percentage of the 2023 Local Government votes of the UUP – 5,393 votes.

Former Derry City and Strabane District alderman, Ryan McCready also obtained 3,744 first preference votes in the 2022 Assembly elections in Foyle.

These are potentially rich pickings for Colum Eastwood, not withstanding his support for the NI Protocol and the Irish Sea Border and Palestine, which might antagonise some Unionist voters in Foyle.