Sinn Féin upends SDLP’s South Down stronghold

March 6, 2017

The surge of nationalist support for Sinn Fein was clear-cut and decisive in the South Down constituency where the party topped the poll in the traditionally SDLP stronghold.

Sinead Ennis was elected on the first count with 10,256 first preference votes, while her running mate, former Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard, came a close second, polling 8,827.  The figures represent an increase of over 6,000 votes for party in the constituency since last May’s election.

Ms Ennis expressed her shock at her personal success and paid tribute to the voters who came out to support her: “I didn’t expect to top the polls. It was never on the agenda. Our focus was to maximise the Sinn Fein vote in South Down,” she said.

“It was a real issues-based election and I am very proud of the campaign we waged and we got the feeling on the doors it was going to be positive.  How it has turned out is beyond everybody’s expectations, and we are all delighted, and I am personally delighted.”

The DUP’s support held up well in the constituency with Jim Wells reelected, polling 7,789 first preferences.  And despite support for the SDLP falling by more than six per cent, the party retained both its seats with Sinead Bradley polling 7,323 while Colin McGrath was deemed elected on the 7th count, having secured 5,110 first preference votes.

Ms Bradley’s victory was overshadowed, however, by the death of her father, former SDLP assembly member PJ, who passed away on Wednesday.  As the veteran politician was laid to rest in Burren on Friday, it was left to party colleagues to mark Sinead’s victory at the count in Lagan Valley Leisure complex.