DANNY Baker, who was elected as Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast, spoke for all four Sinn Féin MLAs who were elected in the constituency, during his victory speech.
Mr Baker was the first to be elected, earning 9,011 first preference votes against a quota of 7,278. Órlaithí Flynn was the second Sinn Féin MLA to be elected with 7,407. Aisling Reilly was the third with 7,664 and Pat Sheehan was fourth with 7,186.
"This is truly a historic moment. The people of West Belfast have returned four strong Sinn Féin MLAs who are determined to delivery real change for workers and families and I am honoured we are returning with our strongest ever mandate.”
Danny Baker next paid tribute to outgoing Sinn Féin MLAs Fra McCann and Alex Maskey for their work in the constituency, and also paid tribute to his mother who has passed away. Mr Baker also gave special thanks to family friends, one of whom had left her hospital bed to go and vote.
The Sinn Féin MLA stated himself and his colleagues remained committed to getting the Executive back up and running to tackle the current cost-of-living crisis, and the problems affecting the health service.
“On Monday morning myself, Órlaithí, Pat and Aisling will be getting to work for everyone. Sinn Féin will be ready to form an executive… let’s get the executive formed immediately. No excuses, no nonsense, no time for wasting, it is time for an Executive that delivers real change for everybody.”
Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit, who was the fifth West Belfast MLA to be elected with 6,023 votes took the podium next and began by congratulating the Sinn Féin MLAs, and thanked the people of West Belfast for returning him to Stormont. Mr Carroll paid tribute to election team, to his partner Miléne and his son Feilimí.
Mr Carroll dedicated most of his speech to workers on strike, and those currently fighting against low pay and insecure work contracts.
“I stand with council workers, Housing Executive workers, and special educational needs workers who have been on strike for above inflation pay rises. It’s disgraceful that in a cost-of-living crisis, the workers who kept society going during Covid are having to fight to get a decent pay offer, and any executive must deal with the pay of workers as an absolute priority. Our message to those workers is we stand with you and I will use every fibre that I can, every day and every minute in Stormont to raise your issues.”
Gerry Carroll also denounced parties during the election who had sought to create sectarian tensions, and stated his party would always stand for working-class unity, and that workers needed to stand together to tackle the ongoing worldwide problems such as climate change, war and large companies making runaway profits.
“Some parties have used this campaign to stir up tensions, and we have always been a voice for working-class unity. We believe in bringing people together, those who have been forgotten and left behind to direct that anger upwards.”