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NI election: East Antrim complete - David Hilditch confident constituency will remain 'DUP stronghold'

By Victoria Leonard

The DUP's David Hilditch became the first candidate to be elected in the East Antrim constituency.

He got through on stage three of the count with 6,248 total votes.

Mr Hilditch told the Belfast Telegraph he was "confident that East Antrim would remain a DUP stronghold".

"Five seats makes it much more difficult to forecast," he said.

"My running mates will be in there to the end, there will be many twists and turns to come.

"We will be in there fighting for seats to the end."

UKIP's  Noel Jordan says he is "gutted" to have been eliminated on stage four of the East Antrim count.

The UKIP representative said that while the party had had good responses on the doorsteps,  this had not converted into electoral success.

"I don't know if Project Fear played a part," he said.

East Antrim lost its only nationalist seat with the UUP ousting Sinn Fein stalwart Oliver McMullan.

The veteran politician had been fighting with relative newcomer John Stewart for the final seat in East Antrim but lost out shortly before 8pm as the results were announced.

It was a blow for Sinn Fein coming on a day of victories for the party, and is the first time the constituency has been without a nationalist MLA in nearly two decades.

However, Mr Stewart - who lost out on an Assembly seat in last May's elections when he ran for the first time - managed to get over the line after taking surplus votes from the DUP's Gordon Lyons who was elected in the previous round.

The DUP held on to two seats, with Stephen Ross a casualty of the reduction in overall seats at the Assembly.

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