Saturday 22 July 2017

Four former Northern Ireland ministers in powersharing administration lose their seats, as Sinn Fein and DUP lead

Sinn Fein candidates for Fermanage South Tyrone Jemma Dolan (left), Sean Lynch and Michelle Gildernew at the Omagh count centre having been deemed elected in Northern Ireland's Assembly election. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Sinn Fein candidates for Fermanage South Tyrone Jemma Dolan (left), Sean Lynch and Michelle Gildernew at the Omagh count centre having been deemed elected in Northern Ireland's Assembly election. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Four former ministers in Northern Ireland's powersharing administration have lost their seats.

A one-time DUP culture minister who confronted what he termed Sinn Fein's use of the Irish language as a weapon, and the chairman of the unionist party who was perhaps best known for helping make the region the first part of the UK to ban the purchase of sex, were among the casualties.

The UUP's deputy leader also perished amid a rising "tide" of Sinn Fein support across Northern Ireland.

And a senior member of the nationalist SDLP who helped negotiate the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, said he had let the party down in a West Belfast constituency it once dominated.

The DUP's Nelson McCausland said: "It means that there is a life beyond politics and there are lots of other things that I want to do and I intend to do.

All six sitting Assembly members in Mr McCausland's North Belfast constituency were battling for re-election.

The cut in the size of the Assembly from 108 to 90 meant all constituencies dropped to five representatives and one of the incumbents had to lose out. It was a factor that inflicted losses across Northern Ireland.

Mr McCausland, a keen proponent of Ulster Scots as a counterweight to Irish, compared Sinn Fein's approach to "weaponising" the Irish language. The DUP's failure to embrace it was used as a tool by republicans to great effect this election.

His party colleague in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Lord Maurice Morrow, was a former social development minister.

He once championed an Assembly law meaning anyone caught purchasing sex could be jailed. It was intended to tackle human trafficking.

He said: "It's 45 years since I first dipped my toe in politics in Northern Ireland but I always knew that nothing would stay the same forever.

"Change happens and I am on the receiving end of that change."

Alex Attwood and Danny Kennedy also had decades of political experience but failed to win re-election in a difficult night for some self-styled moderates.

Mr Kennedy was a minority unionist voice in the Newry and Armagh constituency and a former regional development minister at Stormont.

The massive swell in voting numbers largely favoured Sinn Fein.

Mr Kennedy said: "Sometimes when the tide comes in like that, you are washed away."

Mr Attwood was the first heavy hitter to go.

Sinn Fein had vowed to clean up alleged corruption surrounding a botched green energy scheme and accused unionists of disrespecting the Irish language.

Mr Attwood said: "When people came out they came out disproportionately for Sinn Fein."

He added: "Loud voices have been about the politics of the bogeyman on one hand and top dog on the other.

"The argument that we made was the right argument to compete in that noise."

He recently served as minister of the environment and minister for social development on the Northern Ireland Executive.

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