Opposing public spending cuts will be a main priority for the newly re-elected MP for South Down Margaret Ritchie.
The former SDLP leader retained her Westminster seat with 18,077 votes ahead of the Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard on 12,186 – despite the SDLP vote being down more than 2,500 on her 2010 total.
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.”
Yesterday, Mrs Ritchie thanked the party workers who helped her campaign.
“This result is a testament to their enduring effort. There’s no time to rest though. We know now that the next government will be a Tory one, and with that comes a referendum on the EU and billions of pounds of cuts to public spending.”
Mrs Ritchie added: “The SDLP team at Westminster will work together to do everything we can to mitigate against their savage cuts. The election may be over but the work is just beginning.”
The Sinn Fein vote remained fairly static, decreasing by 50 votes.
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.”
Reacting to the results, Mr Wells said he believed two pre-election incidents, at a hustings event in Downpatrick and on a doorstep in Rathfriland, were overplayed by the media in the run-up to the election, but said he did not think it had harmed him or the party at the polling station.
“It was overblown by the media, not by the ordinary people on the ground,” he said.
But Mr Wells did concede that a decision he took as the health minister might have cost him some votes.
“The decision I made about stroke services at Craigavon Area Hospital may have played a part,” he said,
“However, it was a decision that had to be taken and it was the right decision.”
Mr Wells said he was pleased by the overall performance of the unionist parties and said it bodes well for the assembly elections next year.
Ukip candidate Henry Reilly was in a buoyant mood and very happy with the way his party polled right across the Province.
• Margaret Ritchie (SDLP): 18,077
42.3pc, down 6.1pc on 2010
• Chris Hazzard (SF): 12,186
28.5pc, down 0.2pc
• Harold McKee (UUP): 3.964
9.3pc, up 2pc
• Jim Wells (DUP): 3,486
8.2pc, down 0.4pc
• Henry Reilly (Ukip): 3,044
• Martyn Todd (Alliance): 1,622
3.8pc, up 2.5pc
• Felicity Buchan (Con): 318