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McNulty scores for SDLP but Newry & Armagh political landscape remains unchanged

There was no change to the political map in Newry and Armagh – bar a new face in the form of the SDLP’s Justin McNulty.

Sinn Fein held on to all three seats through some shrewd vote management, but they did not take the third until the last stage with the election of Conor Murphy.

It was the DUP who topped the poll but Sinn Fein who took the largest percentage share of first preference votes.

It ended with three Sinn Fein, Megan Fearon, Cathal Boylan and Conor Murphy, one DUP, William Irwin, one Ulster Unionist, Danny Kennedy, and one SDLP, with Justin McNulty that man, replacing the outgoing Dominic Bradley.

Megan Fearon, at 24 years of age, will be the youngest MLA sitting in the new Northern Ireland Assembly.

It was a long wait but the first count – which was declared at around 4.20pm – saw three elected.

Fears among the Unionist electorate that the vote would be shredded were unfounded as far as the DUP were concerned.

The DUP’s William Irwin topped the poll with 7980 first preferences.

But Sinn Fein commanded a 40.9% share of the vote and that was more than enough to see two of the party’s three candidates also elected at the first count.

Megan Fearon polled 6,838 first preferences – just 21 clear of the 6817 quota – while Cathal Boylan also took his seat  with 6,822 votes.

The party’s third candidate, former MP Conor Murphy, was sitting just under a thousand short but the closest of the remaining candidates to crossing the line.

There wasn’t much between Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy and the SDLP’s Justin McNulty after the first result, with the two sitting on 4,904 and 4,775 votes respectively.

The CISTA (Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol) got a good showing, with more than 1,000 – 1,032 to be precise – marking him as their number one.

Former DUP MLA and now Independent Paul Berry, polled 1,663, with the Ulster Unionists’ second candidate Sam Nicholson, taking 1,841 first preferences.

The remainder of the first count was as follows: Craig Weir, Alliance, 493; Alan Love, Ukip, 315; Martin McAllister, Independent, 940; and Michael Watters, Green, 335.

Michael Watters was eliminated at the third stage, Weir and Love at the fourth, and Martin McAllister at the fifth.

CISTA’s Emmett Crossan – who had taken 2.2% of the overall vote at the first count – was eliminated at the sixth stage.

At the end of the seventh stage, Conor Murphy was sitting on 6,421 – 396 short of quota – while next up was the UUP’s Danny Kennedy on 5,906 and Justin McNulty, of the SDLP, on 5,325.

Independent Paul Berry and Ulster Unionist Sam Nicholson were eliminated at the seventh.

The latter party’s veteran Assemblyman and former Newry councillor Danny Kennedy was to benefit from their downfall and was elected at the eighth stage.

The SDLP’s Karen McKevitt was the last woman standing before losing out and deemed elected were former Sinn Fein MP and MLA Conor Murphy and her own party colleague and Stormont newcomer Justin McNulty.

The marathon count finally came to an end at 1am with the final declaration.

In Newry and Armagh, the turnout was down by over two per cent to 59.32% – with 48,498 of the eligible electorate casting votes.

The total valid votes numbered 47,715, with 783 spoiled ballots.

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