Upper Bann finally completed its long and tortuous Assembly count just before five o’clock on Saturday, almost three hours behind everyone else – by finishing 2-2-2 for DUP, UUP and Sinn Fein.
The to-the-wire fight ended when John O’Dowd (SF) finished 160 votes ahead of long-serving Dolores Kelly (SDLP) for the final place, after Doug Beattie (UUP) had occupied seat number five.
The end result was – Carla Lockhart and Sydney Anderson (DUP); Jo-Anne Dobson and Doug Beattie (UUP); and the SF duo of John O’Dowd and running mate Catherine Seeley.
Kelly took it on the chin as she left the count, smiling through – “I gave it a good run,” she said. ”But that’s politics and now I’m out of work. But you have to accept the will of the people I’ve been privileged to serve since 2003. I’ll go home and enjoy some family time.”
The result came more than two hours behind the pack. Just after 2pm, it was learned that 105 of the 108 NI Assembly seats were filled – the vacant three were Upper Bann, with Beattie and the two SF members finally elected after repeated re-checks.
The theme of most of the speeches was the deepest sympathy for Doug Beattie. Ironically, his 15-month old grandchild Cameron Tindale had just been laid to rest (the toddler died on Wednesday) a couple of hours before Mr Beattie’s victory was confirmed.
All four unionists made quota, with Seeley just 80 short of the 6527 total, while O’Dowd was almost 1.000 adrift. It meant that three men and three women will serve Upper Bann for the next five years.
All three women delivered victory speeches – Ms Lockhart, Mrs Dobson and Ms Seeley – with O’Dowd the odd man out.