Francie Molloy (Sinn Féin) 17,462 (46.9%, -5.1%)
Nigel Lutton (Independent) 12,781 (34.4%, +1.7%)
Patsy McGlone (SDLP) 6,478 (17.4%, +3.1%)
Eric Bullick (Alliance) 487 (1.3%, +0.3%)
Turnout 37208; Spoilt 223 (0.6%)
There is not much to be said. Everyone has reason to celebrate.
Molloy was always going to win, and his problem was to get voters who already knew that to turn out in bad weather; 46.9% is at the lower end of SF expectations, but it's on rather than off the scale (in fact, only a hair lower than Martin McGuinness got here in 2005).
The united Unionist vote is above my expectations. I was fooled by Lutton's apparent weakness as a candidate, but of course not being on the ground I could not see how he was doing on doorsteps. I also could not see how effective the combined Unionist ground game was.
At any rate, the proposition that a united Unionist candidate will always get a lower vote share has now been disproved. But a 1.3% increase is not exactly seismic, and as with the Shinners, the result is much the same as DUP and UUP combined in 2005.
McGlone's vote share is exactly what he got in 2005. The SDLP's direction of travel from recent nadirs appears to be upwards, but there is still quite a long way to go.
When I was involved with Alliance in the mid-90s, the party had but a handful of members in Magherafelt and none at all in Cookstown. Again, a percentage increase - indeed, an actual increase in real votes, from 395 to 487 - is cause for celebration but doesn't signify much else.
These results, if replicated in an Assembly election, would deliver three seats for SF, two Unionists and one SDLP, just like every other election since 1998.
As with the West Belfast by-election in 2011, SF hold one of their safest seats with a reduced majority and lower turnout, and there are no surprising shifts in popular support. (Actually, West Belfast was more interesting last time because of the performance of the People Before Profit candidate.)
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