The 126,921 record vote
Begged, borrowed, stolen - it must be difficult being one of the 126,921 voters who supported Sinn Féin last week across seventeen Westminster Constituencies. For the 12th time since 1982 Sinn Féin have put up candidates in a Six-County election. The culmination of their support for Sinn Féin should have silenced the media and political pundits who have left no stone unturned over the last 15 years in their attempt to negatively interpret the impact of the party at the polls.
Whatever the interpretation of Sinn Féin's electoral performance which last week hit another record at 16% of the total vote, one thing is certain, Sinn Féin has become the central feature of the electoral process in the Six Counties. The results show clearly that the party has established itself as a potent electoral force across the Six Counties and that must bode well for the forthcoming council elections.
South Belfast 79% up on `92
East and South Belfast are some of the most difficult constituencies for Sinn Féin to canvass in. but even here the party was able to hold onto the gains won in last year's elections. In East Belfast Dominic Corr polled 810 votes while in South Belfast Seán Hayes held 5% of the vote with his 2,019 votes, slightly down on last year's Forum result but still double the 1992 total.
North Belfast 78% up on `92
In North Belfast Gerry Kelly managed to repeat his 1996 performance of nearly doubling the 1992 party vote. Sinn Féin won 8,375 votes, compared with 4,693 in 1992 and 7,681 votes last year giving the party over 20% of the total poll, neck and neck with the SDLP whose vote has only increased by 800 votes since 1992.
West Belfast 52% up on `92
The return of the West Belfast seat to Sinn Féin frames the party's performance in the city. The party's vote surged past last year's record vote of 22,355 to 25,662, almost 56% of the total vote, while Joe Hendron's vote was only marginally different from its 1992 level.
Newry Armagh 71% up on `92
The Sinn Féin performance in Newry Armagh shows perhaps more than any other constituency that voters view Sinn Féin as a dynamic force essentially different from the politics offered by the SDLP. Seamus Mallon held the seat, despite some moaning early on in the count that Sinn Féin's success at the polls could throw the seat into unionist hands. This had been the major platform of his election campaign.
Sinn Féin's Pat MacNamee took over 21% of the vote, garnering 11,218 votes, an increase of over 70% on 1992 and maintaining the momentum established in 1996.
North Antrim up 51% on `92
In the three constituencies of Antrim Sinn Féin again polled well. James McCarry took over 6% of the poll in Paisley's home constituency. His 2,896 votes was an increase on both 1996 and the 1,916 votes he won in 1992. Chrissie McAuley polled 543 votes in East Antrim.
South Antrim up 82% on `92
Henry Cushnihan won over 5% of the vote with 2,229 votes, more than 1,000 up on 1992 and an increase on last year.
South Down up 178% on `92
The 5,127 votes for Sinn Féin's Mick Murphy in South Down maintained the strong electoral performance established in this constituency by the party last year. His 10% vote share is more than double the 1,843 votes the party won here in 1992.
Foyle up 25% on `92
With almost 24% of the constituency vote Sinn Féin's Mitchel McLaughlin maintained the party's impressive electoral record in Derry. The party held onto the so-called stolen votes of 1996, improving on their 1992 performance when Martin McGuinness won 9,149 votes here.
East Derry recorded another strong electoral performance, maintaining the party's 9% vote share in this constituency. Malachy O'Kane's 3,463 votes was an increase on 1996.
Sinn Féin's vote in Lagan Valley at 1,132 was almost a rerun of the 1996 vote for Sue Ramsey.
Upper Bann up 107% on `92
Bernadette O'Hagan maintained the party's momentum in Upper Bann winning 5,773 votes, over 12% of the vote, an increase on last year and more than double the 1992 total of 2,777 votes. In Strangford Garret O Fachtna won 503 votes for Sinn Féin.
Gerry McHugh's 11,174 votes in Fermanagh South Tyrone gave Sinn Féin over 23% of the poll here, edging the SDLP into third place. In West Tyrone Sinn Féin's Vice President Pat Doherty garnered a vote of 14,280 in this new Westminster constituency. The vote was an increase of nearly 3,000 on 1996 and the party won over 30% of the constituency poll.
Mid Ulster up 98% on `92
Mid Ulster registered the most dynamic increase in the Sinn Féin vote as Martin McGuinness's campaign to bring the seat back to the nationalist community drew massive support. Sinn Féin won over 40% of the poll and with 20,294 votes were almost double their 1992 total and more than 7,000 votes up on 1996.
Apart from nationalist MP's in Fermanagh and West Tyrone the only unfulfilled objective now is perhaps that the 1997 election be the last Westminster election with Irish constituencies.