Belfast Telegraph

Tearful Jim Shannon dedicates re-election to his late father

By Rebecca Black

Jim Shannon fought back tears during an emotional acceptance speech as he dedicated his re-election to his father who died just 10 weeks ago.

He polled just over 15,000 votes - three times as many as his nearest rival - and praised the people of Strangford as "the salt of the earth".

While the DUP vote held up from 2010, the Ulster Unionist Party was shocked to see its vote almost halved to 4,868 for candidate Robert Burgess.

The Alliance vote doubled from 2010, with candidate Kellie Armstrong sweeping up 4.687, almost equal to the UUP vote.

But from the start of the evening it was clear the DUP had continued its dominance of the constituency that was previously held by Iris Robinson with one of the biggest majorities in the UK.

Making his acceptance speech, Mr Shannon was left temporarily lost for words,

"This is a very poignant occasion, those who know me know my father passed away 10 weeks ago. It's the first election I've had where my dad hasn't been there to support me, I'm very conscious that my mum is here, thank you," he said before pausing, overcome with emotion.

"I would like to thank the good people of Strangford, the Strangford folk are the salt of the earth and today they proved they are the salt of the earth, and I want to thank them for that."

Referring to the long weeks of canvassing, Mr Shannon joked it was the "best diet regime", revealing he had lost almost a stone through all the walking.

The newly re-elected MP also paid tribute to the other candidates, saying it has been "a very clean fight".

Alliance candidate Kellie Armstrong spoke of her delight at the surge in support for her party.

"It's a fantastic achievement for the team, I am a councillor, not an MLA, the high profile that this has given me bodes well for next year [the Assembly elections]," she said.

"That was one of the key aims we had as a party, and also we wanted to make sure that women candidates were not just in seats we were going to lose, this was to raise our profiles and to test the water.

"It's very obvious Strangford has welcomed our message, and a woman."

Meanwhile Ulster Unionist members were left shocked by the party's poor performance in this seat, that they had previously held with Lord Kilclooney.

Some UUP members were openly blaming the choice of candidate, with Robert Burgess - a Down councillor - being accused of being too remote for the Newtownards-dominated constituency.

Mr Burgess said he had enjoyed the campaign, but was now looking forward to a rest.

Portaferry businessman Joe Boyle took fourth place for the SDLP with 2,335 votes, closely followed by Joe Jordan of Ukip with 2,237 votes, and Conservative Johnny Andrews with 2,167 votes.

The TUV will feel disappointed to have attracted just 1,701 votes with its candidate Stephen Cooper.

Belfast Telegraph


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