Protest vote ‘cannot be ignored’
Protest vote ‘cannot be ignored’


The final results of the Stormont election show a small drop in support for Sinn Fein and the rival nationalist SDLP, and no change at all for the unionists, with the Green Party and socialist People before Profit making small gains.

The election of veteran socialist and community activist Eamonn McCann in Derry (pictured) propelled further joy for People before Profit at the expense of the SDLP last night, while the election of a second Green Party MLA in east Belfast added to the SDLP’s gloom, as Claire Bailey took her seat from the deputy SDLP leader, Fearghal McKinney.

There has been some concern in Sinn Fein over the decline in its support and the growing disaffection of nationalist voters from the Stormont system generally. But in the end the party only lost one seat -- a painful defeat in west Belfast, where one of Sinn Fein’s five seats were dramatically seized by poll-topper Gerry Carroll of People before Profit.

This should have been cancelled out by a success in Upper Bann, where Catherine Seeley took an extra seat for Sinn Fein away from Dolores Kelly of the SDLP. However, there was cancelled out by a surprise gain for the SDLP in Fermanagh South Tyrone at their nationalist rival’s expense, due to Sinn Fein’s unwise strategy of running four candidates in that constituency.

Of the larger parties, it was the DUP supporters who seemed most pleased with their performance, as even some of their party strategists had predicted a decrease on what was widely considered a high water mark in 2011.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt expressed disappointment to have no return for his effort in quitting the power-sharing Executive late last year.

But the main talking point will be that electoral support for nationalist parties continues to flag.

While overall turnout in Thursday’s poll dropped by less than one percentage point compared with the last assembly election, the combined nationalist vote fell by more than five per cent, converting to a loss of three seats.

The downward trend has been apparent since the 2010 Westminster election, with the latest figures putting support for both Sinn Féin and the SDLP at its lowest point since the early 1990s.

Sinn Féin saw its share of the vote slip by 2.9 per cent this time, while the SDLP share declined by 2.2 per cent.

A new class of stay-at-home nationalist means that the gap between supporters of a united Ireland and the union has increased once again.

Commentator Chris Donnelly said the result of Thursday’s poll showed the “nationalist malaise is continuing” – and costing seats.

He said the recent downward trend has accelerated with the performance of PBP and other independents in West Belfast and Derry.

“These two constituencies are key because they show that nationalists turned out in higher numbers when they were offered a vehicle to express their political discontent and annoyance with the nationalist political class,” he said.

“The fact that in West Belfast thousands surged to a PBP candidate sends a loud and clear message to both Sinn Féin and the SDLP.”

Mr Donnelly has now abandoned his previous idea that nationalists failing to vote reflected a community “at ease” with British rule.

“For Sinn Féin, thousands of their voters ditched them in an act aimed at articulating a protest message which the party can not ignore,” he said.

“For the SDLP, it is a deeply worrying sign of their irrelevance that nationalists chose a fringe socialist candidate as the vehicle for their protest message as opposed to the party which once held the MP seat in West Belfast.”


38 DUP, 28 SF (-1), 16 UUP, 12 SDLP (-2), 8 Alliance, 2 PBP (+2), 2 Green (+1), 1 TUV, 1 Ind. U


Belfast East: 3 DUP, 2 Alliance, 1 UUP
Belfast North: 3 DUP, 2 SF, 1 SDLP
Belfast South: 2 DUP, 1 SF, 1 SDLP, 1 Alliance, 1 Green
Belfast West: 4 SF, 1 SDLP, 1 PBP
East Antrim: 3 DUP, 1 SF, 1 UUP, 1 Alliance
East Derry: 3 DUP, 1 SF, 1 SDLP, 1 Ind. U
Fermanagh and South Tyrone: 2 SF, 2 DUP, 1 SDLP, 1 UUP
Foyle: 2 SF, 2 SDLP, 1 DUP, 1 PBP
Lagan Valley: 3 DUP, 2 UUP, 1 Alliance
Mid-Ulster: 3 SF, 1 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 SDLP
Newry and Armagh: 3 SF, 1 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 SDLP
North Antrim: 3 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 SF, 1 TUV
North Down: 3 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 Alliance, 1 Green
South Antrim: 3 DUP, 1 SF, 1 UUP, 1 Alliance
South Down: 2 SF, 2 SDLP, 1 DUP, 1 UUP
Strangford: 3 DUP, 2 UUP, 1 Alliance
Upper Bann: 2 DUP, 2 UUP, 2 SF
West Tyrone: 3 SF, 1 SDLP, 1 DUP, 1 UUP

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