Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill re-elected in Mid-Ulster

Ms O’Neill received 10,845 first preference votes.
Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill re-elected in Mid-Ulster

By PA Reporters

The Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill has been re-elected on the first count in Mid-Ulster.

Michelle O’Neill was surrounded by party colleagues and supporters as the result was announced in the Magherafelt count centre.

Ms O’Neill received 10,845 first preference votes.

The result was greeted by large cheers in the count centre.

Speaking to reporters shortly before her election was announced, Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill said she was feeling “very positive”.

She said she was “very grateful” to be with the people of Mid-Ulster.

Asked about the possibility of her taking the first minister role, she said: “It is very early to say, let’s get all the votes counted.

“I feel very positive. We felt a very positive campaign.”

She said that Sinn Féin wanted to “together work in partnership with others”.

“That is the only way we will achieve much much more for people here, whether in terms of the cost-of-living crisis or trying to fix our health service”.

It came after the first MLA elected to the Stormont Assembly declared an Alliance Party surge.

Kellie Armstrong was elected for the Strangford constituency on the first stage of the count with 7,015 votes.

Kellie Armstrong (left) celebrates with Alliance party leader Naomi Long (right)

Congratulated by Alliance leader Naomi Long, Ms Armstrong said it is the start of a surge for the party in the Assembly elections.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” Ms Armstrong said after the announcement. “I’ve held back using the word ‘surge’ until now but I think I’m feeling it now. I’m absolutely delighted to top the poll.

“I’m not going to say a tidal wave at this moment in time because we’ve a long time to go yet but it’s amazing and it’s being shown in the vote today.”

Earlier Ms Long said it looks like it has been a positive election for her party.

Arriving at the election count at the Titanic Exhibition Centre she said: “There is a long way to go before we have any results and as always, until it is actually there on the board and counted, I never take anything for granted. But yeah it looks like it has been a good day for Alliance.”

“We fought a positive campaign, we fought a campaign that was focused on what we could do if we could get a government up and running. That has to be the focus and I think people responded to it.”

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, whose party had been expected to shed votes, also arrived in the count centre in Jordanstown on Friday to await the results of his Lagan Valley constituency.

Official turnout figures announced on Friday morning as counting started included 61.74 per cent in North Belfast, 58.42 per cent in Strangford, 60.11 per cent in East Antrim, 64.36 per cent in South Belfast, 60.13 per cent in North Down and 64.66 per cent in West Belfast.

The overall average turnout at the last Northern Ireland-wide Assembly election in 2017 was 64.8 per cenrt.

In Upper Bann turnout was recorded as 62.48 per cent, while in Newry and Armagh turnout was recorded as 68.49 per cent.

Turnout in Foyle was 61.64 per cent  and 66.90 per cent in West Tyrone. In Fermanagh and South Tyrone turnout was 69.09 per cent.

Counting is set to continue into the early hours of Saturday.

Some 239 candidates are running across 18 constituencies.

Striking council and education workers staged demonstrations outside a number of the count centres as part of their two-week strike over a rejected pay offer.

Outside the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast City Council worker and Unite shop steward John Moore said they want politicians to take note that “this isn’t going to stop until people come to the table and talk to us”.

“We were offered a 1.75 per cent pay rise after nearly 12 years of pay cuts and pay freezes, and that 1.75 per cent is just another pay cut, people have to meet their household bills, pay for food and energy and they just can’t do it,” he said.

The DUP and Sinn Féin are vying for top spot at Stormont, which comes with the entitlement to nominate the next first minister.

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