Kennedy loses out after 32 years of political life

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3 March 2017 - NI Assembly Election 2017 Count at Banbridge Leisure Centre for Newry & Armagh and Upper Bann constituencies.
the UUP's Danny Kennedy speaks to the press following his defeat in Newry/Armagh.
Photo by Tony Hendron / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3 March 2017 - NI Assembly Election 2017 Count at Banbridge Leisure Centre for Newry & Armagh and Upper Bann constituencies. the UUP's Danny Kennedy speaks to the press following his defeat in Newry/Armagh. Photo by Tony Hendron / Press Eye.

As the talks at Stormont got under way on Monday, with bloodied-nosed UUP well down the pecking list, the party’s highest profile victim - Danny Kennedy (Newry and Armagh) - was clearing out his constituency offices in Tandragee and Markethill.

Mr Kennedy – twice a Minister in the Assembly and with the highest UUP total of votes in the poll – had to face the ignominy of paying off his staff and facing an uncharted future after 32 years in politics.

“Naturally I’m disappointed,” said the UUP’s deputy Assembly group leader. “But all good things come to an end.”

Most pundits claimed that party leader Mike Nesbitt’s statement that he would transfer his surplus to SDLP “did for” Mr Kennedy and several of his colleagues across Northern Ireland.

The irony was that Mr Nesbitt failed to build up a surplus as he was 1,000 short in Strangford, and made it at a late count.

He quit as leader during the count.

But Mr Kennedy refused to blame the leader.

“I accept defeat with honour, just as it was an honour to serve,” he said.

“I knew that the Sinn Fein tide was rolling in fast and had an idea a unionist would be swept away, and that I would be that unionist.”

The Sinn Fein trio of Cathal Boylan, Megan Fearon and Conor Murphy swept home, with Boylan making it on the first count and the others following suit soon afterwards.

The sole SDLP runner, GAA star Justin McNulty, joined them in the victory speeches after the count was concluded.

The poll-topper, though, was William Irwin (DUP), who angrily flayed the Nesbitt move .

“It’s time Nesbitt rode into the sunset. Danny Kennedy has been very measured in his reactions. But his party leader had let him down and the entire unionist family down.

“Danny and I have been friends over the years, and I am sad to see him go,” said Mr Irwin.