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First republican MP elected

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

CHRIS Hazzard will not be taking his seat at Westminster maintaining Sinn Fein absentionism policy.

The Drumaness man and sitting MLA claimed victory over SDLP veteran and former party leader, Margaret Ritchie to become South Down's first republican MP.

Mr Hazzard "praised and thanked" Ms Ritchie for a "lifetime of public service" during his victory speech and dedicated his win to previous unsuccessful Sinn Fein candidates for the seat and to recently deceased friend Vincent McDonald from Hilltown.

"It's historic and the first time Sinn Fein have ever won the MP seat in South Down. We live in a different era, and you can see that right across the board.

"And while I'm honoured and entirely privileged that it is me, I am entirely aware that I am standing on the shoulders of heroes," he said.

He said that he knows there are "challenges" for South Down.

"There are big challenges in South Down. Brexit is huge for us as a border community." Paying tribute to his predecessor, Mr Hazzard said he is in it for the long haul.

"There are no two ways about it, Margaret has been a tireless worker, a public servant. There is no short cut in politics, hard work is always rewarded. I'm young and only 32 and I have plenty of years ahead of me." Speaking about the Sinn Fein gains across NI, Mr Hazzard said it was "because we have shown strong leadership, dynamic leadership. We have seen people rally to our call like never before." "People tried to make an issue out of absenteeism - Sinn Fein have wiped the board.

People want to see real representation, that doesn't mean it's London, Dublin, Brussels, or wherever that may be." He said that he and the party would "absolutely not" look at taking their seat at Westminster.

"I got elected because I don't take my seat, and it's the same for all the Sinn Fein MPs." Mr Hazzard was co-opted as an MLA in 2012 and has served at Stormont since.

Last year he was named as the Department of Infrastructure minister. It is not yet known who will replace him at Stormont.

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