Alliance’s Brown triples his vote in remarkable surge

Alliance’s Brown triples his vote in remarkable surge

8 May 2019

FOR the second time in consecutive council elections, Alliance’s Patrick Brown missed the official declaration that he had been elected in Rowallane.

Four years ago, he caused a major political upset when he secured a seat despite being several hundred miles away from the official count centre in Newry. 

He was in Sheffield finishing his undergraduate dissertation in politics on that occasion and was being kept abreast of developments by telephone.

Last week, the Alliance man caused another major upset by topping the poll — once again confounding pundits’ predictions — but he again missed official confirmation by returning officer Liam Hannaway as he was not in the count centre at the time.

He wasn’t in the hall but was only a short distance away and soon raced to the count where the thoroughly delighted poll topper was congratulated by friends and family and fellow Alliance candidates.

Many were suggesting that the decision by former Alliance man Martyn Todd would hinder Brown’s campaign. If anything, it re-energised it, prompting him to work harder which resulted in a canvass which saw him call at over 4,000 doors.

The race to top the poll was expected to be won by the SDLP’s Terry Andrews, but Brown was quietly confident from the early stage of the count that he would take the honour. 

He was also adamant that negative comments from the DUP about him on social media had helped him almost triple his first preference vote, up from 510 in 2014 to a whopping 1,416.

“I never expected to top the poll and thought Martyn’s decision to run would have hit me a bit more. If half his votes are in fact Alliance it means there almost 2,000 party votes in Rowallane. A few of my unionist colleagues were writing me off ahead of this election, but what a result,” he said.

Cllr Brown is also confident that his party can use its electoral performance in Newry, Mourne and Down and other council areas as a platform on which to build future election success.

The DUP’s Harry Harvey polled an impressive 1,265 votes, 313 more than in 2014 — a result that left him “shocked and delighted”.

Rather than issue press statements during the canvass, the highly regarded Harvey concentrated  his energies on one-to-one contact with voters across Rowallane. The exhausting work paid off.

Harvey was given the Derryboye, Kilmore, Saintfield and Crossgar areas to canvass, with his party colleague Billy Walker concentrating on his heartland of Killyleagh where he lives and Ballynahinch, where he works on behalf of Strangford MP Jim Shannon.

The genial Harvey is widely respected across the chamber and insists that he always tries to be himself and has no intention of changing. He was also quick to think about all the councillors who had lost their seats and would not be returning to the debating chamber.

As for Walker, he revealed that last week’s election could potentially be his last, explaining that in 2023 he will have been a councillor for almost 20 years.

“This was my fourth election and I really think it will be my last,” he revealed within minutes of being confirmed for another four years.

“I think that serving four terms is long enough for anyone. I believe I have given the people of Rowallane excellent service. In four years’ time it may well be time to hang up the boots.”

SDLP man Andrews, who consistently draws support from across the community, knocked on over 7,000 doors during his extensive canvass and while ultimately it wasn’t enough to top the poll, he was delighted to be returning for four more years when he plans to put value for money for ratepayers at the top of his agenda.

His vote dipped by just over three per cent, down from 1,321 in 2014 to 1,211, with Andrews insisting he was happy with his return and humbled that people have once again placed their faith in him for a third council term ahead of his birthday celebrations on Monday.

It was a somewhat different election for the UUP’s Robert Burgess whose vote dipped by 330, which he blames mainly on Independent candidate Martyn Todd polling 477 votes. The UUP man also gave some of his canvass area to running mate Walter Lyons, who polled 667 votes.

Burgess also split himself between his home of patch of Rowallane and the Downpatrick DEA where his son Alexander was the UUP candidate, polling 28 votes fewer than Graham Furey who was the party’s standard bearer in 2014.

Elsewhere, Sinn Fein’s Marianne Cleary, contesting her first election, increased the party vote by 70, with Aontú’s Liam Mulhern and the Green Party’s Emma Cairns polling 99 and 182 votes respectively.