Strangford part of big Alliance ‘tsunami’

Strangford part of big Alliance ‘tsunami’

11 May 2022

POLITICAL commentators described it as a ‘surge’ and even a ‘tsunami’ when the Alliance Party’s growing sway began to be felt across the board in the 2022 Northern Ireland Assembly elections. 

And it all started in Strangford.

Kellie Armstrong – the highest polling Alliance candidate ever in Strangford – became the first of an eventual 17 Alliance MLAs to be deemed duly elected in Northern Ireland after the first count, dwarfing 2017’s election total of eight.

Her huge poll of 7,015 brought her to the top of the list of 12 Strangford candidates vying for five seats, and also made her the only one of the dozen to reach the quote of 6,811 unaided.

But it didn’t stop there.

It may have been an eleventh hour victory, but with the help of transferred votes, it was a victory nonetheless for newcomer Nick Mathison who secured the fifth and final seat in the constituency.

His election, well into the second day of the Strangford count, came as Northern Ireland’s new-found appreciation for the centrist party resulted in a flurry of new Alliance MLAs being declared thick and fast.

Mrs Armstrong said she was “absolutely elated after the last six weeks”, adding it was a “relief to get it all done”.

She continued: “It’s been an an incredible campaign,” she said. “We have been out talking to the people on their doorsteps and it was the bread and butter issues that they were concerned with. We listened to what they had to say and it was heating, schools, waiting lists that is concerning them.

“We are a party that will go into government and stay in government. We were focusing on the positives and we did not want to criticise others – there were others doing that – we just want to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland.

“Even when the Assembly was collapsed we were still delivering for the people,” she continued.

“And in a shortened mandate Naomi Long delivered legislation for victims of domestic abuse through the Justice Department, (the Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act (Northern Ireland) 2021), Chris Lyttle delivered on the Fair Employment School Teachers Bill and I got through the Integrated Education Act – these were significant issue and the people see we are working hard and delivering on these issues.”

She said she believed the younger generation were starting to invest themselves more in Northern Ireland, and in their vote.

“I haven’t seen the figures yet for the younger vote yet, but young people really care about Northern Ireland. We have always been afraid of our young, trained and educated young people opting for somewhere else to work, away from the green and orange 

politics here, but the young people are wanting to invest more here today and to also invest their vote here.” 

Going into the second day of the count, at Belfast’s Titanic Exhibition Centre, Mrs Armstrong lamented the loss of the the SDLP’s Conor Houston, whose transfers aided Mr Mathison’s election. 

That came with a veritable murmuration as supporters and activists swarmed at the count centre, as rumours spread that Mr Mathison had indeed been elected in the ninth and final count.

That soon swelled to whoops of joy as Mathison’s win was welcomed by party leader Naomi Long, who had been among those sitting vigil.

His first call was to run out to ring his wife to reveal the good news.

Up until Saturday, Mr Mathison had been working largely in the background as an activist helping to secure his party’s burgeoning popularity.

He was in ebullient form afterwards. “It’s been a great election for the party and I was delighted for Kellie who had an amazing election,” he said.

Looking beyond the count he stated: “There’s still a massive challenge on the other side but the public has been pretty clear that they want a change.

“The people have sent a message that they want a different type of government and we want to get into government to deliver on that.”

Mr Mathison was first elected on to Ards and North Down Borough Council in 2019. Coming from a background in social welfare, Mr Mathison reiterated: “Politics, for me, is about doing and I want to deliver for people.”