The SDLP’s Mark Durkan has apologised to his predecessor John Hume has spoken of his disappointment after losing the Westminster seat his party has held for over 30 years.
Mr Durkan was speaking in his concessions speech following confirmation that Sinn Fein’s Elisha McCallion had taken the seat for Foyle, after beating him by less than 200 votes.
Despite Mr Durkan having increased his vote on the 2015 election to 18,087 votes, it wasn’t enough to retain the seat he succeeded John Hume in occupying, and which he has held on to for 12 years.
In his concession speech at Foyle Arena in the early hours of Friday, Mr Durkan said: “I’m not going to tell a lie, I can’t say it doesn’t hurt, but I want to begin tonight by congratulating Elisha McCallion and agreeing with her that what she has achieved tonight is a privilege; to represent the people in the city as a designated MP is a privilege. It is a privilege that I have enjoyed for 12 years.”
Mr Durkan thanked his family for their support, not just during the campaign but throughout his tenure at the helm of politics in the north and in Foyle.
To rounds of applause from all those gathered for the declaration at Foyle Arena he said:
“My wife Jackie lost her sister during this campaign and this loss actually tonight does not compare to that.”
Mr Durkan also thanked his daughter Dearbhail for being “hugely patient”.
“No matter what hits my reputation tonight and after this, she is the biggest pride that Jackie and I have, not any office or post I have held either now or before,” he said.
Mr Durkan said public service brings with it huge responsibilities, adding that he had tried to discharge his responsibilities in his various high profile roles as Minister, MLA, MP and in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement, and said he will continue to work with his colleagues in the SDLP as they continue to do that under “the very strong and positive leadership that Colum Eastwood is giving”.
He said that the party may not have had as much “spend and spin” as some other parties and were certainly “well behind in the number of posters compared to many other parties”, but “had fought a good campaign on the doorsteps and had those conversations on the doorsteps, and that was rewarded with a higher vote than we got the last election and a higher vote than we got in the last Assembly election as well”.
“While we are proud of that,” he added, “we also acknowledge that we are not the only people that got more votes, and of course Elisha got more votes as well, and that is the way the numbers game of elections, and particularly first past the post elections, work.”
The SDLP has held the Foyle seat ever since the creation of the constituency in 1983, with Mr Durkan taking over from John Hume in 2005.
Mr Durkan said: “I want to apologise to John and Pat Hume if any shortcomings on my part or the part of any of us have led to any sense of their being a dent in the truth for which they endeavoured and indeed the truth of their endeavours.
“Their achievements and contribution to this city are not diminished by our result in any way tonight.
“I take any responsibility I have for this result and they don’t fall on any other shoulders.”