Well what a night! After twittering away into the wee small hours and finally getting to bed, I find it is the day after the night before.
Now all the seats have been returned what does this tell us?
Well, Sinn Fein have the largest share with 25.5% of the votes, DUP come in a very close second with 25%, SDLP are third with 16.5% and UCUNF fourth with 15.2%. That totals (in the inimitable sectarian head count) a 42% Nationalist share and a 40.2% Unionist Share of the big two on each side. Counting in the Unionist share for Sylvia of 3.1% the Unionist total rises to 43.3%. The Alliance Party sits at 6.3% share of the vote with the different independents (other than Sylvia) reaching 4%.
The overall turnout was 57.6%. This was the lowest turnout of all the four countries (England tops it with 65.5%, Wales next with 64.9% and then Scotland with 63.8%)
This all translated into
UCUNF (Conservatives and Unionists)
The biggest upset of the night was Naomi Long (Alliance) unseating Peter Robinson (DUP) in East Belfast.
The closest run seat was Fermanagh and South Tyrone with only 4 votes in it to allow Michelle Gildernew (Sinn Fein) to remain its MP (this was after no less than 3 recounts!). The fight in Fermanagh and South Tyrone really brought a lot of the voters out (it was seen as a fight between the incumbent Michelle Gildernew of Sinn Fein and Rodney Connor, the independent Unionist Unity candidate)
The biggest majority was Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein) in West Belfast with a majority of 17, 579.
The best polling Independent was Sylvia Hermon (Ind Unionist) in North Down who kept her seat.
The best success was, in my opinion, the SDLP who retained their 3 seats (Foyle, South Belfast, and South Down).
The biggest flop was the UCUNF (Conservatives and Unionists - the alliance of the Conservative Party and the UUP) who returned no MPs and the Conservatives just managed a hung Parliament. Though negotiations are ongoing with the Liberal Democrats to form a government.
The biggest non-event was the TUV. The TUV took about 66,197 votes in the European election, could only manage 26,300 votes this time around with the highest polling TUV candidate, Jim Allister, hitting 7,114 votes in North Antrim.
The Unionist vote was down -7.4% (DUP -8.7%, UUP -2.6% & TUV 3.9%). Though this would be raised upward if Sylvia Hermon's and Rodney Connor's share were included by a couple of points or so. The Nationalist vote was marginally up by +0.2% (Sinn Fein +1.2% & SDLP -1%).
The biggest let down? Voter turnout. Normally Northern Ireland likes to say it has a very high turnout rate, but the figures show a different image with a turnout of 57.6% (the 2005 Westminster election saw a turnout of 63.5%). Although the highest turnout in Northern Ireland was in Fermanagh and South Tyrone with 68.9% of a turnout of voters. All 'Nationalist' areas polled high, with 'Unionist' areas polled low.
So what does this tell us? Unionism, at the General Election, has, in Mike Nesbitt's words, taken a "bloody nose". It has lost a seat at Westminster and overall voting percentage is down. This has already led to calls of 'Unionist unity' (something I may discuss in another post). But I think one of the biggest issues is not 'Unionist unity' but more voter apathy in unionist areas.