ACROSS the North, the SDLP had a poor election and losing their Deputy Leader in North Belfast will have dealt a huge blow to the party.
In last week’s election, Nichola Mallon received 7.83 per cent of the first preference vote which was down 43.6 per cent on 2017 where she had achieved 13.09 per cent of the first preferences.
In the days leading up to the poll, some party members spoke privately about their concerns that Nichola Mallon would lose her seat to Alliance’s Nuala McAllister and their concerns proved to be correct.
At the beginning of the campaign, there had been talk of Sinn Féin struggling to maintain their two seats within the constituency with Carál Ní Chuilín seen as a potential casualty. However, the party managed to turn things around and romped home increasing their vote by 6.05 percentage points from 29.42 in 2017 to 35.47 in 2022.
The DUP, who ran three candidates in 2017, only fielded two in the form of their group leaders on Belfast City Council and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Brain Kingston and Phillip Brett. The party saw their vote swing from 32.08 per cent in 2017 to 24.27 per cent in last week’s poll.
Alliance Party’s Nuala McAllister has been nipping at the heels of the other candidates for the final seat since she first ran in 2016. Her tenure as a councillor and former Mayor of Belfast has aided her popularity within the constituency and her vote has grown consistently. This time round, Ms McAllister achieved 9.52 per cent of first preferences, up from 8.41 per cent in 2017.
The Ulster Unionist candidate, Julie-Anne Corr Johnston had contested the 2017 election for the PUP. Overall, support for her party fell within the constituency from 5.83 per cent of first preferences in 2017 to 5.74 in 2022. While this is not a significant drop, she managed to grow her personal vote by 0.79 percentage points when compared to her vote share in 2017.
While the Green Party managed to lose their seats in South Belfast and North Down, the party’s Deputy Leader, Mal O’Hara managed to increase his vote by 82.5 per cent to take 3.14 per cent of first preferences compared to 1.72 per cent in 2017.
People Before Profit’s Fiona Ferguson saw her vote drop by 38.8 per cent from achieving 3.76 per cent in 2017 to just 2.3 per cent last week.
Looking at the spread of votes, Sinn Féin managed to get both candidates over the line on the first count with Gerry Kelly topping the poll on 8,395 votes followed by Carál Ní Chuilín on 7,932. Gerry Kelly’s surplus mainly went to Nichola Mallon who received 407.55 votes, followed by Alliance’s Nuala McAllister who got an additional 121.99 votes and PBPs Fiona Ferguson who received 68.97 votes. Interestingly, TUV's Ron McDowell received 0.44 of a vote from Mr Kelly’s surplus.
Workers' Party candidate, Lily Kerr was excluded at Stage Three on 174.71 votes with 47.99 of those going to Fiona Ferguson. Nichola Mallon received 26.65 of the Workers' Party transfers while the Green Party’s Mal O’Hara got 25.66 votes and Nuala McAllister got 25.44.
Stage four saw the distribution of Carál Ní Chuilín’s surplus which benefitted Nichola Mallon by 141.25 votes. 36.95 of Carál’s transfers went to Nuala McAllister while Fiona Ferguson received 35.15 and Mal O’Hara received 33.85 votes. At the end of Stage Four, Independent candidate Stafford Ward was excluded with 495.56 votes.
Mr Ward’s transfers mainly benefitted the unionist parties with Phillip Brett receiving 116 votes, TUV’s Ron McDowell receiving 90, Julie-Anne Corr Johnston receiving 78, Billy Hutchinson got 56 and Brian Kingston received 41.
Aontú’s Seán MacNiocaill was eliminated at Stage Six on 689.96 votes. A large chunk of his transfers went to the SDLP with Nichola Mallon receiving 195.94 votes. The DUPs Phillip Brett received 54 votes while Nuala McAllister received 47.85 of his transfers.
PUP leader, Cllr Billy Hutchinson was excluded at the end of Stage Six on 820.20 votes. 224 of his transfers went to the TUV candidate while Phillip Brett received 193 votes and Brian Kingston received 193.22 votes. Julie-Anne Corr Johnston received 151 transfers from her former party leader, while the SDLP received 14.11 additional votes.
People Before Profit’s Fiona Ferguson was excluded at Stage Seven on 1,265.95 and Stage Eight saw her transfers distributed to the Green Party’s Mal O’Hara who received 437.25 votes, Nichola Mallon who received 334.49 votes and Nuala McAllister who received 185.09 votes.
Mal O’Hara was excluded at the end of that stage and his transfers gave a huge boost to Nuala McAllister who received 915.04 votes and Nichola Mallon who received 592.01 votes.
The Ulster Unionist Party’s Julie-Anne Corr Johnston was excluded at Stage Nine with 2,994.57 votes and her transfers got Phillip Brett over the line at Stage Ten having received an additional 965 votes. Nuala McAllister received 615.07 votes from the UUP, while the TUV received 560.05 votes and Brian Kingston benefitted from 464.05 additional votes.
Stage Eleven saw TUV's Ron McDowell excluded on 4,261.41 votes with his transfers bringing Brian Kingston over the line. This left the SDLP's Nichola Mallon on 5,571.82 votes and Alliances Nuala McAllister ahead on 6,563.03. As there was only one seat left to fill, McAllister was elected without having reached the quota.