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New era in South Antrim as UUP's Danny Kinahan unseats William McCrea

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 09/05/2015

Willie McCrea of the DUP congratulates Danny Kinahan after the UUP candidate won the South Antrim seat
Willie McCrea of the DUP congratulates Danny Kinahan after the UUP candidate won the South Antrim seat
Danny Kinahan celebrates after taking the South Antrim seat from Willie McCrea

It was a constituency described as having the potential of being a close call - and the prediction proved correct.

Most eyes may have been focused on the East Belfast battle, but the outcome in South Antrim was the upset of the election, with the UUP's Danny Kinahan claiming the scalp of veteran DUP man William McCrea.

Turnout was 54.2%, with Mr Kinahan - a former soldier - winning 11,942 votes, a 949 majority over Mr McCrea's 10,993.

The South Antrim seat has, over the last three Westminster elections, proved to be a political dogfight between the two unionist parties.

Despite a pact between the DUP and UUP in other constituencies, this was definitely not the case in South Antrim.

Unity was to be the last thing on display in this close contest.

Coming into the election, Rev McCrea had a majority of around 1,000 votes.

He beat former UUP leader Sir Reg Empey to hold on to the seat five years ago.

Arriving just after 10pm for the count, Mr Kinahan said he was quietly confident and knew it would be close.

"I would love it to be very, very different, but I expect it to be just as close," he said. But we fought a good campaign."

Among the other five candidates, Sinn Fein's Declan Kearney polled 4,699 votes and the Conservatives' Alan Dunlop came last with 415 votes.

As it was confirmed the UUP had won back a Westminster seat, huge cheers erupted around the count centre.

A shell-shocked Mr Kinahan said: "I got massive support on the doors from all sides of the community.

"It's an immense privilege to have been elected by the people of South Antrim."

He added that backing the equality issue of gay marriage paid off through votes.

"Certainly at times it made me nervous," he said.

"But that's what I believe. There was not anything I said I don't believe.

"I was absolutely determined that is the way we should be going forward. We have to respect the churches, we have to respect each other's religions, but we also have to have a fair and equal society."

Rev McCrea, a Free Presbyterian minister who had been the area's MP for a decade, paid tribute to the people in South Antrim.

"As I pass the mantle to Danny, I leave with dignity, with integrity and with great pride," he said.

A jubilant UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, who embraced Mr Kinahan following his win, said: "It's great for Danny, great for our association in South Antrim, but great for the party.

"We came in with momentum from last year and belief we could get back on the green benches of Westminster."

Belfast Telegraph

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