Belfast Telegraph

This is unionism waking up, says Ian Paisley as he sweeps home

By Staff Reporter

The DUP's dominance of North Antrim continues and now that he has turned 50, Ian Paisley could be on the way to achieving the same political longevity as his late father.

The Paisley family has been at the heart of politics in the Ballymena-centred constituency since Ian Paisley senior was elected in 1970.

Now his son holds the seat and swept in again with ease.

He pulled in a whopping 28,521 votes - 58% - which was dramatically up on his 18,107 in 2015.

It was Mr Paisley's best ever result, but although impressive it didn't quite reach the heights his father achieved in 1974 when he hoovered up 72% of votes in the constituency.

Asked if he hoped to hold the seat as long as his father, Mr Paisley told the Belfast Telegraph: "It is totally up to the people."

He said he will be concentrating on helping Ballymena to recover from the hammer blows of the closures of the massive Michelin and Gallaher factories.

Mr Paisley added: "The priorities are making sure North Antrim comes first and that it is recognised across the United Kingdom by our government and that its needs are properly addressed at every opportunity.

"It is about making sure the ordinary people of this constituency have their voice in Parliament."

Mr Paisley said he will be battling to help Ballymena attract more jobs and said he has already helped to drive unemployment down in the area.

On Brexit, he said that North Antrim had the fifth largest vote for Brexit in the United Kingdom.

He added: "That included our farmers, and everyone else, demanding that we left Europe because it does not work and I am delighted that has been resoundingly supported tonight".

Meanwhile, speaking on the victory platform, after singing a hymn with supporters, Mr Paisley said: "I think across Northern Ireland tonight we are witnessing unionism waking up.

"They have found that being nice, amiable and being prepared to make arrangements - sometimes that just doesn't work and they are saying loudly and clearly: 'We want to have a deal that works in Northern Ireland, but don't push your luck'."

He said people want a devolved administration in place at Stormont, adding: "Let's make this little country one of the best spots in the world."

If people don't want that, Mr Paisley said the DUP was quite happy to go to Westminster and use its influence in a minority government, adding: "We'll get everything we want."

He said the vote reinforced Brexit in Northern Ireland, pledging: "There is no turning back."

He said voters wanted "sensible politics".

Afterwards, Mr Paisley sang the National Anthem with supporters.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann, who lives in the constituency, earlier accepted that it was unlikely his party's candidate, Jackson Minford, would topple Paisley.

Mr Swann said: "This is Jackson's first election campaign. He is no stranger to Ulster Unionist politics, his father was Nat Minford, the Ulster Unionist speaker of the 1974 Assembly. Jackson put in a good campaign."

Mr Swann said his party's ambition was to unseat Ian Paisley "some time in the future".

Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party increased their vote but the TUV, Ulster Unionists and SDLP went backwards.

TUV candidate Timothy Gaston took to Facebook to praise Mr Paisley, saying: "Well done to Ian Paisley on polling an impressive 28,521. Regardless of our differences, credit where credit is due, the people have placed their trust in you and it's important our Brexit voice is heard loud and clear."

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