Recount drama in Fermanagh/South Tyrone

After two recounts at the Enniskillen count centre, Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew is ahead by just two votes over unionist unity candidate Rodney Connor.

Rodney Connor is on 21,298 while Michelle Gildernew has 21,300 votes. The seat could be a critical swing seat in terms of British politics, as Connor has vowed to take the Tory whip at Westminster.

After the initial count, Connor was up by eight votes, overturned when Gildernew’s total increased by 18 votes in the recount, only for her to lose eight in the second recount.

Election workers and party candidates and supporters are now facing into a second recount, which the returning officer has said will take place in the morning.

Sinn Fein is reported to be seeking legal advice over the situation.

Elsewhere, Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly has fallen just short in a bid to unseat the DUP’s Nigel Dodds and appears well placed to win the seat next time out.

Mr Dodds won 14,812 votes to Mr Kelly’s 12,588. The nationalist population in the constituency is now up to 46%, with the vote of the SDLP’s Alban Maginnis getting increasingly captured by Sinn Fein.

As expected, Conor Murphy retained his Newry and Armagh seat. He received a 42 percent share of the vote there, and was over eight thousand votes ahead of his nearest challenger, Dominic Bradley of the SDLP.

Mr Murphy said he was delighted with his party’s performance, despite the fact that the turnout was lower.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness retained his Mid-Ulster seat with a majority of over 15,000 seats.

Speaking afterwards, Mr McGuinness said that over the last 13 years, the constituency had been “transformed”. He said he was “honoured” to be the represetnative “of what is a very proud constituency”.

“This has been a stunning victory in a reduced turnout,” he said.

The Deputy First Minister defended his party’s abstentionist policy at Westminster, insisting he remained at the heart of governance despite not taking his seat in the House of Commons.

“I’ve been in Downing Street more often than many Labour MPs over the course of the last 15 years,” he said.

The difficulties between unionism and republicanism had mostly been laid to rest by the poor support for the anti-Good Friday Agreement Traditional Unionist Voice, he claimed.

“I intend, if Peter Robinson is going to continue as First Minister, to work in a positive and constructive way with him,” he said.

Mr McGuinness also condemned an incident at the counting centre in Derry, where a controlled explosion had to be carried out on a device left in a suspect vehicle.

He said the people of Foyle had rejected armed actions and called on the so-called ‘dissidents’ thought to be responsible to “stop their stupidity”.

They were causing misery for themselves and their own families, he said. “They should just go away and give us all peace.”

Former SDLP leader Mark Durkan survived a strong attempt by Sinn Fein to take the Foyle seat with a winning margin of almost 5,000 over high profile candidate Martina Anderson. Socialist Eamonn McCann polled a creditable 8% in the constituency.

In other news, Ulster Unionist Party assembly member David McNarry has appealed for unionist unity to rescue his party following its failure to win a single seat in the Westminster election. Party leader Reg Empey is under severe pressure after he failed to win a seat in south Antrim.

There was also strong murmurs of discontent in the DUP after scandal-hit party leader, Peter Robinson, dramatically lost his seat to Naomi Long of the small Alliance Party in east Belfast.

The party comfortably held all its other seats, including Sammy Wilson in east Antrim, Jeffrey Donaldson in Lagan Valley and, within the past five minutes, Gregory Campbell in east Derry.

In Britain, although seats are being declared, a result of the cliff-hanger election is also unlikely to emerge for several hours.

After 17 of 18 seats declared in the North, the following is the state of the parties:

Democratic Unionist Party - 8 seats, down 1 (26.8%, down 7.2%)
Sinn Fein - 4 seats, no change (24.0%, up 0.7%)
SDLP - 3 seats, no change (17.1%, down 0.6%)
Alliance Party - 1 seat, no change (6.7%, up 2.5%)
UCUNF (formerly UUP) - no seats, down 1 (16.3%, down 1.4%)
Traditional Unionist Voice - no seats (4.2%)
Green Party - no seats, no change (0.6%)
Others - 1 seat, up 1 (4.2%, up 1.7%)

In Britain, the results so far are:

Conservative - 220 seats, up 58 (36.8%, up 4.2%)
Labour - 163 seats, down 52 (27.3%, down 6.5%)
Liberal Democrat - 35 seats, down 5 (22.5%, up 1.2%)
Scottish National Party - 6 seats, no change (2.6%, up 0.3%)
Plaid Cymru - 3 seats, up 1 (0.8%, down 0.1%)

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