While Sinn Féin caused an upset when one of their candidates topped the poll in East Londonderry, independent unionist Claire Sugden was the first to make it across the line.
While only Claire Sugden had reached quota – after the eighth count – it appeared highly likely Ms Archibald would claim a seat for Sinn Féin and both Maurice Bradley and Geoge Robinson would do likewise for the DUP.
Following the elimination of the DUP’s third candidate, Adrian McQuillan, it looked like a straight fight between Sinn Féin’s Cathal Ó hOisín and the SDLP’s John Dallat for a final seat.
Caoimhe Archibald, who said she was delighted to have topped the poll on 5,851, edged out Maurice Bradley’s total of 5,444 to claim the top spot in terms of first preferences.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell declared himself pleased with his party’s performance and admitted that “we knew two months ago” it was going to be difficult to retain three seats.
Maurice Bradley said he was “sad” to see his DUP colleague Adrian McQuillan lose out.
“Adrian McQuillan is a very close friend,” he said, adding that it was a “big blow to me, the constituency and Garvagh”.
Poll-topper Caoimhe Archibald said: “We fought a positive campaign so that clearly resonated.”
Claire Sugden said that while Sinn Féin had topped the poll, the fact that she was the first candidate elected showed unionism remains strong in East Londonderry.
“The first person to be elected was an independent unionist so certainly, I think there is still a strength around unionism here in East Londonderry. At the end of the day, unionism and nationalism are fundamental political ideologies in Northern Ireland. MLAs jobs are to ensure we have good public services and we need to just get on with that because the people of Northern Ireland are suffering. That’s where my focus would be.”
Counting for the remaining four seats continued late last night.