Alliance poised to take European seat

Alliance leader and EU candidate Naomi Long. Photo: Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.
Alliance leader and EU candidate Naomi Long. Photo: Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.
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The Alliance Party is poised to register another political upset in Northern Ireland by landing a European parliamentary seat.

Party leader Naomi Long notched almost 106,000 first preference votes, coming in just behind Sinn Fein and the DUP in the first round of counting.

The Alliance vote share is double that of the 53,052 gained by the Ulster Unionist Party, which had been defending the third seat.

No candidate reached the 143,112 quota after the first round of counting.

Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson repeated her feat of 2014 and topped the poll with 126,951 first preferences.

DUP MEP Diane Dodds is also on course to retain her seat, registering 124,991 votes.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood notched 78,589 first preferences.

UUP candidate Danny Kennedy limped in sixth in the first round, behind the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party Jim Allister, who scored 62,021 votes.

Martina Anderson said the result in Northern Ireland had sent a strong message to Europe.

“Absolutely delighted, our strategy has worked,” she told the Press Association.

“We wanted to send a message back to the EU by, in the first instance, topping the poll and, more importantly, sending two Remainers back.

“Fifty seven per cent of the people who voted here voted to remain in the EU and they have sent a strong message back to Europe that they want to stay in the EU.”

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said she was equally delighted for Alliance candidate Naomi Long.

“We said clearly in this election this is a chance for people to come out and vote again against Brexit, that’s clearly what’s been borne out here in the election result.

“We think it’s a good day for Remain - a good message sent back to Europe that we don’t want to be dragged out of Europe against our wishes.”