Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Brady conquers unionist pact to retain seat for Sinn Féin

Despite a unionist electoral pact to field a sole candidate in the Newry and Armagh constituency, Sinn Fein held on to the Westminster seat, its party candidate Mickey Brady returned with an overall majority of more than 4,000.

Currently an MLA, Brady takes over the MP reins from Conor Murphy and his win is likely to lead to his resignation from the Assembly, in line with party policy against double-jobbing.

Brady compounded the Sinn Fein stronghold in the constituency, polling 20,488 votes – 41 per cent of the electorate and an 8.4 per cent majority.

The single unionist candidate, the UUP’s Danny Kennedy, followed with 16,312 votes, while the SDLP’s Justin McNulty came in third, polling 12,026.  Both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have increased their vote by around 1,500 and 1,600 respectively.

Despite the unionist electoral pact between the UUP and the DUP, which saw the Ulster Unionist candidate Danny Kennedy effectively double his vote from 2010, swamping the SDLP’s Justin McNulty into third place, the republican vote proved too hard to break and Kennedy came up short.

Brady, a renowned welfare rights worker, had waged a hard fought election campaign, dogged in its final days by a series of intimidating incidents culminating in three death threats in the space of 24 hours.  However, he remained resolutely undeterred and said he was “heartened” by the support he had received.

His party colleague and out-going MP, Conor Murphy, said Sinn Fein’s victory represented “a resounding win for equality over austerity”.

Mr Brady said he was “absolutely delighted” at the increase in his party’s vote. “It has been such an exceptional campaign, such a wonderful experience,” he said. “We will carry on our policies of anti-austerity and equality and ensure all the parties unite to stand against austerity and ensure that we in the North get the best possible deal from Westminster.”

Commenting on his party’s abstentionist stance, he added: “People have this myth that we as Sinn Fein members do not go to Westminster – we don’t take our seats but we certainly do the work.”

SDLP candidate Justin McNulty thanked his election team for their “heroic effort” in helping him on a “very positive and honourable campaign”.

UUP candidate Danny Kennedy congratulated Mr Brady on his win but expressed his regret that “the voice of Newry and Armagh will not be heard where it should be heard”.

The remaining constituency candidates Alliance party’s Kate Nicholl and Robert Rigby of the Conservatives polled 841 and 210 respectively.

Meanwhile, the SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie retained her South Down seat, polling 18,077 votes against her nearest rival, Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard who polled 12,186.