Ritchie retains South Down as Wells keeps most of his votes

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie celebrates with her supporters after being re-elected. INBLElectionSDLP2
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie celebrates with her supporters after being re-elected. INBLElectionSDLP2

Margaret Ritchie has retained her seat in South Down with a majority of 5,891 votes.

The ex-SDLP leader received 18,077 votes while Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard finished in second, receiving 12,186 votes.

There had been some speculation that Sinn Fein might in a stronger challenge than in previous elections but while Mrs. Ritchie’s majority slipped by more than 2,000 votes from the 2010 election, she still won comfortably.

In her victory speech at the count centre in Lisburn, she said: “Let us be very clear that the SDLP vote increased [across the province] and we have a solid majority in South Down.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be returned for a second term as MP for South Down.”

She continued: “When I was elected five years ago, I gave two promises, two pledges, to the people of this wonderful constituency.

“First of all, that I would go and take my seat and secondly that I would represent people the length and breadth of this constituency.”

Once again, the Unionist parties lagged behind in South Down but managed to hold on to roughly the same number of votes as the previous election.

The UUP candidate, Harold McKee received 3,964 votes but bigger intrigue lay with the DUP’s Jim Wells.

Despite the furore surrounding his alleged comments about couples in same-sex relationships and the controversial hustings event, Mr. Wells polled 3,486 votes.

This was similar to his total from the previous election and comes somewhat as a surprise given he was forced to step down from his post as health minister a few short weeks ago.

This followed an altercation with a lesbian couple in Rathfriland, which came just days after his comments on same-sex marriages.

Mr. Wells said he believed decisions he made during his time as Health Minister may have cost him, rather than any controversial incident. He said: “The decision I made about stroke services at Craigavon Area Hospital may have played a part.

“However, it was a decision that had to be taken and it was the right decision.”

The DUP man also remarked that he was pleased with the unionist performance and that it boded well for the Assembly elections.