While there has been no change to the seat make-up in Fermanagh, there is still plenty to digest following the results in Fermanagh and South Tyrone in last week’s Assembly election.

After a long two days at the count centre in Magherafelt, it was finally declared that Sinn Féin held on to their three seats, while the DUP and UUP regained their sole seats here.

Jemma Dolan, Áine Murphy and Colm Gildernew all passed the quota for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, with Miss Dolan getting elected on the first count last Friday afternoon with 9,067 of the first preference votes.

Overall, Sinn Féin took 24,008 of the first preference votes (44.7 per cent) – up by 9.09 per cent from 2017.

While this may have raised hopes that this would be a quick count, it was to prove anything but, with the last MLA only revealed late on Saturday evening.

It was not until Saturday and Stage Seven of the eight-stage count that Tom Elliott of the UUP finally reached the quota and get elected.


Made with Flourish

His cousin, Alex Elliott (TUV), was knocked out of the election race at Stage Six, and his transfers were enough to get Tom Elliott over the line, paving a return to Stormont for the former UUP leader.

It was a muted celebration for Mr. Elliott, who replaced his running mate and outgoing MLA, Rosemary Barton – the sole female MLA for the party.

The imminent arrival of Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill at the count centre distracted most of the media from Mr. Elliott when the announcement was made.

As well as returning a candidate to the Assembly, the UUP in Fermanagh and South Tyrone also managed to increase the first preference vote share in 2022, to 8,354, compared to 6,060 in 2017 – an increase of 37.85 per cent.

After the election of Mr. Elliott, it was back to the waiting game for candidates, their agents and supporters and the media in Magherafelt.

The only thing keeping some going was the Electoral Office, saying there were no plans to enter a third day of counting.


Made with Flourish

Various guesses were given as to when the whole thing would wrap up, varying from 7pm to 11pm that evening. And, while it took eight stages of counting across two days, the final three seats were filled with a flourish.

The exclusion of the SDLP’s Adam Gannon saw his votes divided among the remaining runners – Miss Murphy, Mr. Gildernew, Deborah Erskine and Paul Bell (both DUP) – and with that, the two Sinn Féin candidates were pushed over the quota.

As there were not enough votes left to see Mr. Bell catch his running mate, it was left to the electoral officer to declare Mrs. Erksine as the final MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

With that, the area had its five MLAs, but there are interesting statistics to come out of the 2022 election in the constituency.

While Sinn Féin were comfortably the largest party, there were some impressive gains by other parties, while others will see the election as a failure.

In 2017, the TUV picked up 780 first preference votes; in 2022, that figure was 3,091 – an almost fourfold increase.

However, like the party as a whole, that increased its share, it was not able to translate that increase into seats.

Coming into the election, the Alliance party were seen as an outside chance of causing a shock at the ballot box, but a yellow wave did not materialise.

Still, Matthew Beaumont did manage to increase the first preference vote from 1,437 to 2,583, showing that the party’s star continues to rise in the west.

Before the election, there were some predictions that Adam Gannon and the SDLP could have taken one of Sinn Féin’s three seats. However, it was clear from early on that this was not going to happen, and while he held on to late in the count, his transfers would push the two Sinn Féin candidates over the line.

The SDLP vote also dropped, from 5,134 to 3,836 (-25.28 per cent).

Again, looking back at 2017, the DUP and Arlene Foster topped the count with 8,479 first preference votes, while the second DUP candidate, Lord Maurice Morrow, tallied 7,102 – a total of 15,581 first preference votes.

However, last week, Mrs. Erskine took in 5,272 while Mr. Bell got 4,255 such votes, making a total of 9,527 first preference votes – a 38.86 per cent decrease.

Mrs. Erksine had long been seen as Mrs. Foster’s replacement when she announced she was stepping down last year, but there must have been some nervous moments for her as Mr. Bell was the more transfer-friendly of the DUP candidates, especially from the TUV, from whom he received 1,245 votes compared to 1,004 for Mrs. Erskine.

But it made no difference in the end, as Mrs. Erskine held on with more than 500 votes to spare, completing the line-up for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Elsewhere in the constituency, the smaller parties and Independents made no impact, and were swiftly eliminated after the first stage to leave it to the bigger parties to battle it out.

What was viewed as an election of overall change in the province was anything but in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, as the established parties held their ground – but for some, that ground may be a bit shakier.