First of all congratulations to Francie Molloy….MP.
It was a bye election in a safe seat. He dropped 4,000 votes and lost 5% of the Sinn Fein vote share. He was undoubtedly helped by the fact that it is First Past the Post AND there was a single unionist candidate….and there was so to speak…bad blood between them.
In 2010, there was 38 percentage points advantage over SDLP and this time a still impressive 30 points…the SDLP actually gained votes.
What next? Well Francie goes to Westminster…or rather DOESNT go to Westminster. A new MLA will be co-opted…election agent, Ian Milne? Does this return the SDLP to 2007 levels? Not quite…this time around there was a single unionist. So SDLP will be happy.
The focus shifts to Fermanagh-South Tyrone…albeit in a General Election in 2015. SDLP is clearly a stopped the decline, is reviving and unionist unity actually works. That’s bad news for Michelle Gildernew and probably for one of the three Sinn Fein MLAs there. SDLP has clearly shown it is in the game to win back the seventy odd votes it needs there.