‘Voters didn’t just get mad, they got even’

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood invoked Bobby Kennedy to help explain why the party’s consolidation of its position in Derry and across the north was perhaps eclipsed by many electors choosing not just to “get mad, but to get even” with Arlene Foster by voting for Sinn Féin in huge numbers.

Mr. Eastwood came in second on first preferences on Thursday with 7,240 (16 per cent), while running mate Mark H. Durkan was fourth with 6,948 (16 per cent). The SDLP’s combined share in Foyle was also up to 14,188 (32 per cent) from 11,897 (30 per cent) last year.

Indeed, the party more than held its own across the North.

“We’re very happy. We set out to maintain and to retain two seats and we did that,” said Mr. Eastwood.

“We also increased our vote by nearly two and a half thousand votes.”

However, Mr. Eastwood’s steadying of the SDLP ship in his second election as skipper has been somewhat overshadowed by the success of his nationalists rivals, Sinn Féin

He said: “Of course, Sinn Féin have had a fantastic election across the north and that’s affected us here in Derry as well. That’s just the political context that we are living in. It’s a very polarised context and a very dangerous political time for everybody. Sinn Féin have maximised that opportunity.”

He added: “People were coming out, who hadn’t been out in a long time and, of course, that benefited us, but it also benefited Sinn Féin. Even to a greater degree because people wanted to get angry and they wanted to get even with Arlene Foster.

“That’s what they were trying to do.”