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Campbell back to Westminster with an even healthier majority

By Donna Deeney

The return of Gregory Campbell as DUP MP for East Londonderry was never in doubt - but the significant increase in his vote was the big story.

He managed to increase his tally from 14,663 in 2015 to an impressive 19,723 this time around.

Similar to the other 17 constituencies, the turnout in East Londonderry rose from two years ago to 61.57% of the total eligible vote of 67,038 - 41,278 votes cast, an increase of approximately 10%.

Just 124 of the votes were spoiled.

The DUP was at the count centre at the Foyle Arena shortly after the polling stations closed and well ahead of the arrival of the last boxes, which were brought from Coleraine.

Deputy returning officer Alwyn Taylor called the candidates for the declaration just four hours later for the result which surprised no one.

But the predictability of it did not lessen the victory celebrations for Mr Campbell and his supporters.

However, from the podium he hit out at Sinn Fein and the SDLP for comments they made about him in the run-up to the election.

Mr Campbell said: "There have been those in the nationalist and republican parties who have singled me out for attack and have lambasted and criticised me far beyond any fair, equatable statement of fact in politics.

"At the start of this campaign, Michelle O'Neill targeted me and the next day Colum Eastwood targeted me and on each occasion I had no right of reply.

"Tonight, I need no right of reply because 19,723 people have given the right of reply."

But Mr Campbell was also getting ready for the task ahead of negotiations between his party and Sinn Fein to try and form an Executive at Stormont in the coming days.

He added: "We have said repeatedly, we are prepared to go into government and build for the future for everyone in this country.

"We have difficult, hard decisions to make, we have issues we want to see resolved but we are not prepared to hold the people of Northern Ireland to ransom to get those issues resolved.

"Sinn Fein have been, the question is: are they prepared to move on?"

Since the boundary of this constituency was redrawn, Sinn Fein has taken the position of bridesmaid from the Ulster Unionist Party.

Its candidate Dermot Nicholl left the count centre pleased that the Sinn Fein vote had also risen.

He polled a total of 10,881 which far exceeded the Ulster Unionist's Richard Holmes who secured 3,135.

The Ulster Unionists were thrashed not only by Sinn Fein but also by the SDLP's Stephanie Quigley, who polled 4,423 votes.

The Alliance Party's Chris McCaw posted a total 2,538.

The Conservative Party, who fielded Liz St Claire-Legge as their candidate, limped home with a meagre 330 votes.

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