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Sammy Wilson warns Tories of 'a price to be paid'

By Victoria Leonard

The DUP's returning East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has said PM Theresa May will have to come up with the goods in return for his party's support.

After sealing a comfortable victory at the polls, he said that Arlene Foster was returning to the Stormont talks in a "much stronger position" which "vindicates" her decision not to step aside over the RHI scandal.

From early on it was obvious that East Antrim was a one-horse race, with UUP candidate John Stewart even congratulating Mr Wilson before the clock struck midnight as the results of the exit polls emerged.

Turnout was up by 7% compared with the 2015 general election, standing at 60.83%, with 38,269 votes polled. It was also a touch up on the March Assembly election, when 60.1% turned out - 37,836 voters.

As it emerged that the DUP would effectively be the kingmakers at Westminster, Mr Wilson said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn "will not be getting a scintilla of support from the DUP". However, he also warned that there would be "a price to pay" in return for the DUP supporting the Conservatives.

"In any coalition there is going to be an expectation that it will not come without strings attached to it," he said.

"It puts the Northern Ireland MPs who are elected under the DUP ticket in a very strong position and we have said we will do our best for the people of Northern Ireland in that situation."

Mr Wilson hinted that a DUP "wish list" in a hung Parliament would include discussions over Northern Ireland's status after Brexit, and also on the prosecution of soldiers and police officers over actions during the Troubles.

"There's this insidious campaign by Sinn Fein at present to put policemen and soldiers in the dock and the Government to date has, in our view, been less than forthcoming in making it clear that they are not prepared to allow soldiers and policemen to be persecuted and prosecuted just to please Sinn Fein.

"These are the kinds of issues that we want to talk to the Government about."

Mr Wilson comfortably retained his Westminster seat with 57.3% of the vote.

The former Stormont Finance Minister, who has held the seat since 2005, increased his share of the vote by 21.2%.

His closest rival was the Alliance Party's Stewart Dickson, who managed 15.6% of the vote.

Mr Stewart, who bagged the UUP a seat in this year's Assembly election, was hoping to reclaim the constituency his party had held from 1983 until the 2005 DUP upset.

The Ulster Unionist vote was down 7% at 11.9%, not helped by the fact that Roy Beggs jnr declined a second attempt to win back the Westminster seat his father once held.

Mr Wilson said: "I am very humbled that almost 22,000 people trust me to be their representative in this Parliament and to speak on their behalf.

"I am pleased that unionism, in this election, has found its voice. Despite the propaganda that we had from Sinn Fein, there is still a unionist majority in Northern Ireland. There are still people who value the link between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom."

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