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NI Election: South Antrim - Many happy returns for Ford, Kearney and Aiken

The DUP's Trevor Clarke lost his South Antrim seat as he and his two party colleagues battled it out to the end.

It was a disappointing night for the DUP, who returned Paul Girvan and Pam Cameron in stage eight, when Mr Clarke was also eliminated.

Mr Girvan laughed: "There is a saying that never has so much been done by so few for so many - that was probably a reference to me."

Ms Cameron paid tribute to Arlene Foster, who she said she was "very proud to call my friend and leader - she has my support always."

Mr Clarke, who lost out to Ms Cameron by a difference of 150 votes, said: "I am disappointed, but it was either Pam or me and she won, and that's just how it goes."

Turnout in South Antrim was up by an impressive 11% compared to last May, with 42,726 votes polled out of an eligible electorate of 68,475.

The victor's laurels went to Sinn Fein's Declan Kearney, who topped the poll and came home at stage four. Mr Kearney said that his success was due to the electorate seeking the values of "equality, respect and integrity".

"We need to move forward on the basis of proper power-sharing, there is a need to work properly with the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

Mr Kearney was followed by UUP favourite and former submarine commander Steve Aiken, who reclaimed his Stormont seat in the fifth stage of the count.

Mr Aiken paid tribute to Mike Nesbitt, who stepped down as UUP leader, calling him "one of the most visionary people in Northern Ireland".

Next to be elected was former Alliance leader David Ford, at the seventh stage.

Following a lacklustre performance last May, some had predicted that Mr Ford's seat could be in peril. However, he defied the naysayers to return to Stormont for the sixth time in 19 years.

"Last year I was Justice Minister and party leader, this year I had more time to get out into the constituency. This time I had more opportunities to connect with my constituents," he said.

Results Centre - every count as it happened:  North Antrim - East Antrim - South Antrim - North Belfast - East Belfast - South Belfast - West Belfast - Strangford - South Down - Lagan Valley - Upper Bann - Newry and Armagh - Fermanagh & South Tyrone - West Tyrone - Mid Ulster - East Londonderry - Foyle - North Down

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