Election 2022: Uphill battle for SDLP’s Nichola Mallon in North Belfast

The fate of outgoing Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon personifies the overall parlous state of the SDLP in this Assembly election.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 6th May 2022, 11:19 pm

Overnight she was fighting an uphill battle to hold onto her North Belfast seat, having secured 3,064 votes after four stages of counting.

Ms Mallon was struggling to secure the fifth seat in the face of another Alliance surge, this time from Nuala McAllister who was ahead of her with 4,381 votes.

On Friday night, the DUP’s duo Phillip Brett and Brian Kingston had yet to be elected but the party said that they expected both would get over the line with transfers from other unionist parties.

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Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Chuilin and Gerry Kelly celebrate their election

Mr Brett had 6,329 votes while Mr Kingston was on 4,844, with the quota for North Belfast at 7,672.

He said that both himself and Mr Kingston were “honoured and proud that the DUP has been returned as the dominant voice of unionism in North Belfast”.

Both candidates are “Stormont first-timers” and Mr Brett said he was looking forward to following “the excellent work of the two MLAs who stood down”, William Humphrey and Paula Bradley.

He continued: “The DUP in North Belfast has a track record for hard work for constituents and there is a network of very hard working councillors working behind us. These are the key factors why the DUP remains the main unionist voice here.”

On the prospects of Nichola Mallon, Mr Brett added: “I think her problems go back to the general election in 2019 when she stood aside for Sinn Fein. Doing that was a big mistake because it sent a signal to the electorate that why would they bother voting for her again if she didn’t stand last time.

“Look at Nuala McAllister’s vote, she stood in the general election, refused an election deal with Sinn Fein and it didn’t do her any harm.”

Despite reports from the constituency during the campaign that Sinn Fein were worried about their second candidate, Caral Ni Chuilin, she and her running mate Gerry Kelly romped home.

Mr Kelly was elected on the first count with 8,395 first preferences while Ms Ni Chuilin was close behind him on 7,932 first preference votes.