Election victory in Antrim
BY CAÍTLIN DOHERTY
The result of the Antrim North-West by-election last week was an electoral triumph for Sinn Féin. Pauline Davey-Kennedy, former Magherafelt councillor, pipped rival nationalist SDLP candidate Brian Duffin and Antrim town UUP candidate Avril Swan.
The Sinn Féin candidate secured a crucial republican seat on Antrim Borough Council and doubled the party's vote in the Toome and Randalstown area.
She will also be the first woman to sit on a unionist-led Council that has a blatant history of sectarianism and discriminatory policies.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the electoral victory was not only a remarkable outcome but also ``a timely reminder of the growing support which Sinn Féin enjoys''.
``In a week when unionism has attempted once again to ignore the mandate of Sinn Féin,'' he said, ``this result is an irrefutable endorsement of the Sinn Féin position. Sinn Féin put our analyses before the people in this election, and received another significant mandate. Such a mandate cannot be ignored.''
The by-election was called after the SDLP refused to co-opt the Sinn Féin councillor. Although the seat was a Sinn Féin one, the SDLP insisted on splitting the nationalist vote, even when it emerged that one of the three nationalist seats could be lost to an Ulster Unionist.
However, by casting a total of 1,215 first preference votes, the electorate delivered a clear endorsement of Sinn Féin's policies on local issues as well as to the overall peace process.
Martin Meehan, Antrim constituency manager, paid tribute to the incredible work done by an enthusiastic electoral team. ``Everyone was totally committed and put in a tremendous amount of work. This work has paid off. This victory is also an illustration of the way Sinn Féin is growing and strengthening its base in County Antrim.''
Pauline Davey-Kennedy said she was ``delighted'' at the result. The daughter of the late John Davey, who was assassinated in 1989 by a loyalist death squad, has pledged to challenge sectarianism and the intimidation of nationalists, to campaign for welfare rights and rural and economic development.