Alliance and DUP secure two seats as TUV hit by lack of transfers

Alliance and DUP secure two seats as TUV hit by lack of transfers

11 May 2022

THE growth of centrist politics evidenced across the 2022 Assembly elections was mirrored in Strangford when Kellie Armstrong became the first of 17 Alliance MLAs to be elected.

In the same constituency, the surge of Alliance party’s popularity was confirmed when Mrs Armstrong’s running mate, first time candidate Nick Mathison, was one of the final candidates to gain a seat at Stormont. 

In contrast, the DUP lost some of its ground in Strangford, retaining two of the three candidates fielded by the party in the traditionally unionist stronghold.

Losing out was former Stormont Minister Peter Weir, who was eliminated in the fifth stage of counting. His departure came despite him polling more first preference votes than the second Alliance seat holder.

The TUV’s rising presence, witnessed in votes across the province but in only one seat — for leader Jim Allister — was also apparent when Stephen Cooper lost out to a place at the Stormont table. This came despite polling Strangford’s third highest vote count, due to the particular vagaries of the single transferable vote.

It had been a nail-biting finish for Mr Cooper, alongside Mr Mathison and former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt – despite the former broadcaster’s 871 extra first preference votes – and the SDLP’s Conor Houston. 

But after a protracted period of waiting, well into the second day of counting at Belfast’s Titanic Exhibition Centre, Mr Houston’s demise in the final stage paved the way for Mr Nesbitt and Mr Mathison. They clinched the last two seats after transferred votes gave them the edge over Mr Cooper.

That period of suspense had been seemingly endless for the many hundreds of people filling the count centre – including candidates, their families and supporters, election officials and vote counters, observers and the media.

The hours had passed by snail-like for many, marked off by minutes of pacing, anxious-faced candidates, not only on those from the Strangford 

constituency, but from neighbouring South Down and all four Belfast regions which shared the Titanic count centre space. 

Few masks were visible on the people of the packed venue, and even fewer chairs and refreshments after a catering misfire let down the centre’s management, leaving the behemoth body of people queuing in just two outlets for much of the two-day count. 

Despite the hardships, the mood was mostly ebullient, with the lengthy lulls punctuated by cheers and whoops of joy as the well-known faces of party leaders arrived to congratulate the victors.