Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

DUP eclipses UUP in North Down

The DUP's Mervyn Storey and Paul Frew at the count centre in Ballymena, Co Antrim
The DUP's Mervyn Storey and Paul Frew at the count centre in Ballymena, Co Antrim

The contrasting fortunes of Northern Ireland's two main unionist parties were summed up by results in North Down with the DUP topping the poll in a constituency that was once solid UUP country.

After the Good Friday Agreement the Ulster Unionists held three of the six seats, with the DUP lacking a single MLA.

But it is the Democratic Unionists who look set to pick up an Assembly hat-trick 13 years on after Alex Easton topped the poll in emphatic fashion.

He polled 5,175 first preference votes, almost 1,500 ahead of second placed Gordon Dunne, a fellow DUP candidate.

Third DUP candidate Peter Weir, himself a UUP Assembly member in 1998, was third on the first count with the Alliance's Stephen Farry close behind.

Those three are sure to follow Mr Easton to Stormont when counting restarts on Saturday, with five or six candidates realistically involved in the fight for the last two places.

In North Antrim, Ian Paisley Jr's replacement at the Stormont Assembly has topped the poll.

The DUP's Paul Frew secured 6,581 first preference votes to secure his Assembly return, followed by Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay and the DUP's Mervyn Storey.

Three seats are left to fill in the constituency amid speculation that Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister could secure the party's first seat in the power-sharing executive.

The hardline unionist candidate quit the DUP in 2007 in opposition to power-sharing with Sinn Fein. Mr Allister won 4,061 first preference votes - 1,699 short of the quota needed to get elected, leaving him to rely on transfers.

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