All in all it was a quite subdued election with little sectarian rancour, the parties favouring to concentrate on bread and butter issues. The turnout at the polls was certainly down on the last Stormont election for the 108 seats. In the South Down election the turnout was 56.97% of the electorate, with 73, 240 eligible to vote. Votes polled were 42,551. There was a surprising high figure of votes invalid…825.
Once the counters were briefed and ready, the counting began in Lisburn around 3.15pm. The Lagan Valley count was being run simultaneously in the same hall and the first result came from here with Lagan Valley candidate Edwin Poots (DUP) triumphantly topping the first count.
The first main early battle for South Down was between the two nationalist parties, the SDLP and Sinn Féin. Although Margaret Ritchie had won through strongly on her first count, how her transfers will work out is left for Saturday morning to discover. But in looking at the total votes cast for both parties each fielding three candidates each, the SDLP had 14927, and Sinn Féin had 12,887, reflecting a much closer contest, much depending again on who transfers to whom. The total nationalist vote was 27,814.
It is too early to call the results as much can happen with transfers, but in the tussle for the sixth seat, Karen McKevitt (SDLP) has a head’s start with around 900 extra first preference votes on her party colleague Eamonn O’Neill with Sinn Féin’s Naomi Balie hanging in with a chance with around 400 votes more than O’Neill. This will be a close battle.
On the Unionist side, Jim Wells DUP, who had his arm in a sling after a fall while out electioneering, has made a strong show saying that he felt confident expecting a 1000 or so votes to transfer from the UKIP candidate. John McCallister UUP was cautiously optimistic after the first count saying he was still in with a good chance. He too would benefit from the early exit of the UKIP, an early faller as the candidates cross the hurdles. The total Unionist vote in South Down for the first preference votes was 11,941.
Cadogan Enright has not faired strongly for the Green Party on the first count despite having made a a huge effort to get out into the constituency and meet the electorate, but he hoped his work would be reflected in the next stage preference votes. And Alliance candidate David Griffin was philosphical about his first preference vote, saying that most people voted for ‘sectarian parties’ and that he will battle on for his cause.
But it remains to be seen how Margaret Ritchie’s votes will transfer. With 2535 votes to disperse above the equota at a reduced value in the transfer process, this will be a very interesting and a critical stage.
Results for the South Down first preference votes counted.
The quota set after the first count was 5961
Margaret Ritchie (SDLP) …………..8506 ELECTED.
Caitriona Ruane (Sinn Féin)……….5955
Jim Wells (DUP)………………………. 5200
John McCallister (UUP)……………..4409
Willie Clarke (Sinn Féin)……………3882
Karen McKevvitt (SDLP) ………….. 3758
Naomi Baile (Sinn Féin) …………….3050
Eamonn O’Neill (SDLP)………….’.. 2663
Henry Reilly (UKIP) ………………….2332
Cadogan Enright (Green Party)…..1107
David Griffin (Alliance)……………….854]]>