Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Mixed emotions for Green Party MLA

Green Party leader Steven Agnew dedicated his election triumph to a close friend who died during his campaign

Victory was tinged with sadness for Green Party leader Steven Agnew as he dedicated his triumph in North Down to a close friend who died during his campaign.

The 31-year-old fought back tears as he paid tribute to long-time friend and former housemate Conor Shaw, also 31, who was buried the day after the election after losing his battle with cancer.

After retaining the Greens' only seat in the Assembly, Mr Agnew gave an emotional acceptance speech, saying: "The last contact I had with him, I apologised for not being there for him in the final stages of his illness and the message he sent back was, 'Focus on your campaign'. So to Conor, to his family - Liz, Brendan (parents) and Claire (sister) - this is for you, thank you."

North Down saw the DUP emerge as top dog 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 was the Democratic Unionists who picked up an Assembly hat-trick 13 years on as Alex Easton topped the poll in emphatic fashion.

Gordon Dunne and Peter Weir, himself an Ulster Unionist MLA in 1998, made up the DUP trio, while the UUP was confined to one seat for Leslie Cree. The Alliance's Stephen Farry took the other seat in comfortable fashion. High-profile independent and former UUP man Alan McFarland fell short.

In the Foyle constituency it was a case of "as you were" as all three parties retained their seats.

The DUP's William Hay, the Assembly speaker, topped the poll in the nationalist majority constituency in Londonderry after the Ulster Unionist Party declined to field a candidate.

The SDLP held on to its three seats. Sitting Assemblyman Pat Ramsey and debutants Mark H Durkan, a nephew of former SDLP leader Mark Durkan, and Colum Eastwood, the Mayor of Derry, successfully defended their party's three seats from a Sinn Fein challenge.

Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson and party colleague Raymond McCartney easily retained their seats as their overall party vote moved to within 500 votes of the SDLP.

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