General election 2015: West Tyrone count

Ballot boxes arrive at the West Tyrone and Fermanagh South Tyrone constituency counts at Omagh Leisure Complex
Ballot boxes arrive at the West Tyrone and Fermanagh South Tyrone constituency counts at Omagh Leisure Complex

The word on the ground in West Tyrone was that by 10.30pm incumbent Pat Doherty was looking suitably relaxed in a nearby hotel, and well he might, having had a majority of almost 11,000 in the 2010 general election.

Bookmakers Paddy Power gave odds of 1/100 for Sinn Fein to retake the seat with the SDLP next at 10/1.

The DUP’s Tom Buchanan and UUP’s Ross Hussey were, by contrast, supping cafeteria coffee in Omagh Leisure Centre, as was a dozen-strong Sinn Fein election team.

The SDLP’s Joe Byrne had not yet been sighted either by the media posse. But the first ballot boxes were only opened before 11pm so perhaps the nationalist candidates may be wisely pacing themselves.

Prompted by the SDLP being the bookies’ second favourite – the party only came in fourth in 2010 while the DUP came second – Mr Buchanan suggested the unthinkable: “If the SDLP can take 4,000 votes from Pat Doherty unionism could take the seat – we had 14,000 in the last Assembly election,” he mused. More pragmatically in the next breath, he added: “At least it should provide us with a good base for the future for unionism.”