SDLP’s McNulty the new face as Sinn Fein retains its three MLAs

May 9, 2016

The only change on the political landscape in the Newry and Armagh constituency following Thursday’s Assembly election is the new face for the SDLP in the form of Justin McNulty.

Taking over the party mantle from his predecessor, Dominic Bradley, McNulty held on to the party’s sole seat in the constituency, his running mate, Karen McKevitt, came up short in her attempt and was eliminated at the final count.

The overall share of the six seats in the constituency remains the same with Sinn Fein retaining its three MLAs – Megan Fearon, Conor Murphy and Cathal Boylan; and one each for the DUP (William Irwin), the UUP (Danny Kennedy) and the SDLP’s Justin McNulty.

Clever vote management by Sinn Fein saw both Megan Fearon and Cathal Boylan elected on the first count with 6,838 and 6,822 first preferences respectively.  Their colleague Conor Murphy had a longer wait and was deemed elected at the eighth stage as the marathon count came to a close at 1.00am on Friday.

Megan Fearon, the Assembly’s youngest MLA at 25, has represented her party in Stormont for the last four years, having been co-opted to replace the then MP, Conor Murphy, who stood down in line with Sinn Fein policy on double-jobbing.  Having securing a ringing endorsement from the electorate this time around, Ms Fearon says she is “simply thrilled” and paid tribute to those who orchestrated the “thoroughly disciplined” campaign, adding: “We got all the right votes in the right places for the right people”.

While Sinn Fein commanded a 40.9% share of the vote, it was the DUP’s William Irwin who topped the poll in Newry and Armagh with 7,980 first preferences, more than 1,100 over the quota.  He said his success is down to “hard graft” and added: “Our work for all the people ensured we were strong not just in areas like Richhill, Loughgall and Hamiltonsbawn, but across the whole constituency”.

With the quota set at 6,817, the candidates polled first preference votes as follows: William Irwin DUP 7,980; Megan Fearon SF 6,838; Cathal Boylan SF 6,822; Conor Murphy SF 5,854; Danny Kennedy UUP 4,904; Justin McNulty SDLP 4,775; Karen McKevitt SDLP 3,923; Sam Nicholson UUP 1,841; Paul Berry Ind 1,663; Emmet Crossan CISTA 1,032; Martin McAllister Ind 940; Craig Weir Alliance 493; Michael Watters Green 335, Alan Love Ukip 315.