History has been made in Foyle as Sinn Fein’s Elisha McCallion ended decades of SDLP domination at Westminster elections in Foyle.
There were scenes of jubilation inside and outside the count centre at Foyle Arena overnight as Sinn Fein elected representatives, supporters and friends of Ms McCallion gathered to witness her massive vote.
Derry’s new MP overturned predictions that the SDLP’s Mark Durkan would be returned to Foyle, previously a safe seat for the party and one he has occupied for 12 years. It proved to be one of a series of devastating blows for the SDLP.
The writing was on the wall around an hour before the official declaration when Sinn Fein Leader in the north Michelle O’Neill accompanied Elisha McCallion and MEP Martina Anderson to the count centre to rapturous applause.
Among the whispers of how the count was going in the foyer, a Sinn Fein party activist emerged from the hall and announced that Elisha had overtaken Durkan by around 170 votes.
A recount was then ordered, which showed the margin between them to be closer to 200 votes.
At the declaration it was confirmed that Mark Durkan had actually increased his vote to 18,087 from 17,725 votes in the 2015 election.
But it wasn’t enough and there were roars of joy as it was confirmed Elisha McCallion had achieved 18,256 votes.
This was a massive jump on the 11,679 votes achieved by Sinn Fein’s Gearoid O hEara back in 2015.
It also comes just three months after Ms. McCallion topped the poll in the Foyle Assembly election with almost 2,000 more votes than her nearest rival.
In what turned out to be a good night for the DUP across the north, Foyle candidate Gary Middleton racked up 7,398 votes- a huge increase on the 4,573 he was awarded back in 2015.
First time candidates Shaun Harkin and John Doherty also polled respectably, with Mr Doherty attracting 847 votes for Alliance and Mr Harkin, People Before Profit getting 1,377.
Speaking after her election, Ms. McCallion paid tribute to Mr Durkan and added: “I can’t but express my extreme delight at being the first ever Republican MP here.
“It’s been an absolute privelege to be given this opportunity, and an even bigger privilege for the electorate to come out today and vote for me in the numbers that they have, and I want to make it clear that I will represent every single person in this constituency.”
Mrs McCallion MP also paid tribute to the late Martin McGuinness and said the start of the year had been very difficult for Republicans.
She said: “We lost our friend, we lost our leader and we lost our inspiration. But he guided us every step of the way through this election. His memory lives on in every one of us, and Martin we did this for you.”