Election 2022: All to play for in East Londonderry

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There was all to play for last night in East Londonderry where just one candidate had made it across the line after six counts.

DUP candidate Maurice Bradley became the first elected thanks to a strong performance in first preferences, with Sinn Fein candidate Caoimhe Archibald well set to follow him across the line.

A tight pack of candidates is hoping transfers will help them when the count resumes today.

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The DUP, who fielded three candidates last time around in 2017 but only got two into the Assembly, were taking no chances this time with Limavady man Alan Robinson joining Mr Bradley on the ballot.

Independent unionist Claire Sugden looks likely to retain her seat despite a fall in first preferences from 2017Independent unionist Claire Sugden looks likely to retain her seat despite a fall in first preferences from 2017
Independent unionist Claire Sugden looks likely to retain her seat despite a fall in first preferences from 2017

Mr Bradley was confident his running mate – who was stepping in to replace his retiring father George Robinson who had held an Assembly seat in East Londonderry for decades – would soon make it across the line.

Speaking to the News Letter, former mayor of Coleraine Mr Bradley said: “It’s quite good, it looks as if the DUP are going to retain our two seats. Hopefully it gets over the line for Alan Robinson as well. It’s looking good for us to retain our two seats.

“Once we go into the process of elimination, it all depends who goes out and where their transfers will come down. This is only my opinion, but I think it should be two DUP and one independent unionist.

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“The other seat could be up for grabs between the SDLP, Sinn Fein or the Alliance depending on the outcome of the transfers.”

Elsewhere in the race, the UUP candidate Daryl Wilson and the TUV candidate Jordan Armstrong appeared to be facing an uphill battle to dislodge the independent unionist candidate Claire Sugden.

Ms Sugden was the first candidate across the line in East Londonderry in 2017, but with a reduced number of first preference votes this time she wasn’t so far ahead of the UUP and TUV candidates to relax after five counts.

Her 3,981 first preferences had become 4,202 after the first five counts. The UUP’s Daryl Wilson, meanwhile, saw his votes increase from 2,625 to 2,740 after the transfers were awarded. For Mr Armstrong the total went up from 2,959 first preferences to 3,224.

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Complicating matters was the Alliance candidate Chris McCaw, who polled 3,338 first preferences and was on 3,683 after transfers following the fifth count.

Ms Sugden, speaking to the News Letter, admitted there was still some distance to go in the race.

“You’re not over the line until you’re over the line,” she said. “I am reasonably happy with how things are going for me.”

Asked about the close nature of the race, she said: “I think it’s indicative of the work that the candidates have put in. I think it is also indicative of how Alliance are doing across Northern Ireland. There seems to be an appetite for change, so perhaps that is what voters are looking for.

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“But if you are anticipating the outcome, I am not sure that much is going to change in terms of seats because while votes are up, it might not be enough to translate to seats.”

The other big question was whether the strong first-preference performance of Sinn Fein candidate Kathleen McGurk, ahead of the SDLP candidate Cara Hunter, would be enough to win her the seat or whether there would be a repeat of the late drama in the 2017 election.

Last time, Sinn Fein candidate Cathal O’hOisin appeared well set to pick up a second seat in East Londonderry for his party after the first preferences were tallied - only for the SDLP candidate John Dallat to make a late push thanks to transfers and edge out his nationalist rival.

A repeat of that scenario was entirely possible last night, where Cara Hunter had made some headway in closing the gap following the fifth count.

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Mr Wilson said the result for his party reflected the continued dominance of what he termed “binary politics”.

Speaking to the News Letter, Mr Wilson said: “I am bitterly disappointed but I obviously accept the democratic will of the people. We fought a vigorous campaign, a positive campaign, and we knocked on between 20 and 25,000 doors. The reception was fantastic but what we were finding was that it was down to binary politics. People were saying they would like to vote for us, but that they had to choose someone else to keep another party out. That’s certainly something that’s happening all over Northern Ireland. It appears to be impacting the SDLP as well. The centre-ground political parties are going to have to reassess how they move forward.”


Caoimhe Archibald (SF) 6,868 15.5%

Maurice Bradley (DUP) Elected 6,786 15.3%

Alan Robinson (DUP) 5,151 11.6%

Kathleen McGurk (SF) 4,500 10.1%

Claire Sugden (Independent) 3,981 9.0%

Cara Hunter (SDLP) 3,664 8.3%

Chris McCaw (Alliance) 3,338 7.5%

Jordan Armstrong (TUV) 2,959 6.7%

Darryl Wilson (UUP) 2,625 5.9%

Stephanie Quigley ((Independent) 1,503 3.4%

Gemma Brolly (Aontú) 1,095 2.5%

Russell Watton (PUP) 933 2.1%

Billy Stewart (Independent) 82 0.2%

Mark Coulson (Green) 347 0.8%

Amy Merron (PBP) 347 0.8%

Niall Murphy (Independent) 181 0.4%