Ritchie retains South Down while Wells’ vote drops slightly

SDLP MP for South Down Margaret Ritchie
SDLP MP for South Down Margaret Ritchie

Margaret Ritchie has retained her seat in South Down with a majority of almost 6,000 over Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard.

It was clear from the first batches of ballots were counted that the sitting SDLP MP was polling well and she maintained a healthy lead over her main rival until the final result.

In the end, Mrs Ritchie was returned to Westminster with 18,077 votes ahead of the Sinn Fein candidate’s 12,186 – despite the SDLP vote being down more than 2,500 on her 2010 total while the Sinn Fein vote only decreased by 50 votes.

Welcoming her victory, she said: “In this new Parliament, I will again be leading the campaign for the reduction of VAT on tourism, because I believe that the tourism industry will need it to grow the local economy because South Down is a tourist district, but also it is a catalyst for our economic development, growth and job creation.”

The overall turnout was just over 57 per cent.

Jim Wells polled reasonably well, particularly in light of his resignation as health minister following two well-publicised election campaign incidents involving his views on homosexuality.

The beleaguered MLA polled 3,486 votes, which was down 159 from the last general election.

On that occasion he finished ahead of John McCallister who stood on a UCUNF ticket, however, this time around the Ulster Unionist candidate, Harold McKee, attracted the most unionist votes with 3,964.

Speaking immediately after the results were announced, Mr Wells said: “This has been an eventful election for me personally”.

Paying tribute Mrs Ritchie on her victory, he added: “You have to be applauded for all of your hard work over the years.”

Ukip candidate Henry Reilly, accompanied by his NI party leader David McNarry, was in a buoyant mood and happy with the way the results were going right across the Province.

On the night, the Mourne councillor polled 3,044 votes.

Alliance candidate Martyn Todd made a large gain for his party in terms of the percentage increase – rising from 560 in 2010 to 1,622.

Conservative candidate Felicity Buchan polled 318 votes.