General Election 2015: UUP's Tom Elliott ends Michelle Gildernew's reign in Fermanagh/South Tyrone
Unionist pact strikes again
Tom Elliott ended Michelle Gildernew’s 14-year hold on Fermanagh/South Tyrone in what is arguably the biggest Northern Ireland upset of election night.
He was declared the winner by 530 votes shortly after 5am this morning.
The UUP MLA, who received pan-unionist backing, was cheered loudly as he pledged to return Westminster representation to the area.
“This constituency of Fermanagh/South Tyrone, the most westerly constituency in the United Kingdom, is not a green constituency,” he said.
“It does not belong to Bobby Sands, it belongs to the people of Fermanagh/South Tyrone and that is who I intend to represent.”
Mr Elliott said his 23,608 votes had come from “right across the community”.
“I thank those people who realised they need representation,” he said.
Fermanagh/South Tyrone was the most marginal constituency in the whole of the UK – won by four votes in 2010 – but Mr Elliott’s win was still a surprise.
Ms Gildernew had held the seat since 2001.
She thanked the "thousands of people" who voted for Sinn Fein.
"I believe that vote represents people of all faiths and none and I am proud and humbled to have been chosen by those people in Fermanagh/South Tyrone,” she said.
Members of Ms Gildernew’s family, including her son, appeared close to tears as the result became clear.
Senior Sinn Fein figures, including president Gerry Adams and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, were present for the result.
Mr Adams told the Belfast Telegraph: “When you have the combined forces of unionism and the loyal orders it was obviously very difficult.
“I think Michelle fought a wonderful campaign.”
Mr McGuinness said: “We have always been very proud of Michelle Gildernew and we’re even more proud of her tonight.”
SDLP candidate John Coyle finished third with 2,372 votes.