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SDLP deputy leader Claire Hanna retains seat at Westminster

Claire Hanna (left) has retained her seat (Liam McBurney/PA)
Claire Hanna (left) has retained her seat (Liam McBurney/PA)

SDLP deputy leader Claire Hanna has predicted a “step change” in the UK Government’s attitude to Northern Ireland after she retained her seat at Westminster.

Ms Hanna, who secured almost 50% of the vote with 21,345 votes, saw off a challenge from the Alliance Party’s Kate Nicholl to win the renamed South Belfast and Mid Down seat.

The returning MP expressed confidence that a Labour government would boost investment in Northern Ireland and would also demonstrate an “appetite” for reforming Stormont’s institutions.

The SDLP has been among those calling for reforms to prevent further collapses of the powersharing institutions in Belfast.

POLITICS Election
(PA Graphics)

Devolution has been in cold storage for five of the last seven years as a result of Sinn Fein, and then the DUP, using a controversial veto power to pull down the ministerial executive.

Asked if the new Government would deliver a “step change” in regard to Northern Ireland, Ms Hanna told the PA news agency: “I don’t doubt it for a minute. Nobody’s pretending that it’s the very top of everybody’s list in Westminster. But Keir Starmer clearly has an institutional memory and an attachment to Northern Ireland (he formerly worked for the Northern Ireland Policing Board), as do many others.”

She added: “I think there’s a keenness to understand and to help.”

Ms Hanna said she expected more funding for the region.

“There was an acknowledgment, even by the outgoing government, that public services weren’t adequately funded based on the need and the demographics that we have here.”

On Stormont reform, she added: “We need to end this chronic nihilism where we collapse it every couple of years because that is what is making everybody in Northern Ireland’s life difficult.”