Belfast Telegraph

One final TUV roar ensures a boisterous end

By Rebecca Black

As two long days of counting ended, six of the 10 candidates climbed onto a platform in the King's Hall to hear it made official that our three sitting MEPs would be returning to Brussels.

Candidates from the smaller parties, including NI21, the Green Party, Conservatives and Ukip, had long since left the building.

Only small groups of the most fervent supporters from each of the parties left in the count remained to witness the long- awaited end to a drawn-out process.

Two days of nail biting finished with a small crowd around the platform – a far cry from the packed hall that greeted the announcement of the first stage results on Monday evening.

But last night's finish was no quiet conclusion.

Almost as soon as poll-topper Martina Anderson started her acceptance speech, members of the TUV turned their backs.

Two Union flags were produced and held aloft as they pointedly turned away from Mrs Anderson.

At one stage the supporters of the hardline party even started talking and laughing during the speech.

If that didn't make the TUV point of view clear enough, leader Jim Allister left the King's Hall in no doubt about his stance by refusing to congratulate Mrs Anderson.

He would only congratulate Diane Dodds and Jim Nicholson as "untarnished democrats".

With his voice rising in volume as his speech went on, Mr Allister castigated Ms Anderson as a "victim-maker and a convicted terrorist bomber" – a reference to her 1986 conviction for conspiring to cause explosions in England.

Mr Allister moved on to state his wish that the EU ceases to exist before the next European election. Then he turned his attention to First Minister Peter Robinson, who was among the crowd gathered for the speeches.

"I have a message for roll-over unionism," he railed. "The TUV is on your case.

"Those who are tempted to do another sordid deal, keep looking over your shoulder."

The TUV leader's voice reached another pitch as he pointed his finger at his former political colleague in the DUP.

"Mr Robinson, we are on your case," he roared, to cheers from TUV supporters still holding Union flags aloft.

"We are continuing the rise of the TUV. Roll-over unionism is rolling out of sight."

By sharp contrast, Alliance candidate Anna Lo made a quieter speech, simply thanking staff at the counting centre and her supporters before speaking of her delight at the rise in her party's vote.

Barely was her speech over before TUV supporters burst into an enthusiastic rendition of God Save The Queen.

However, the objects of Mr Allister's scorn were unruffled by his attacks.

Mr Robinson seemed unperturbed, pointing out that the TUV's percentage share of the European vote had fallen.

"His share of the vote has gone down. The TUV is diminished because of the loss of nearly 2% of their vote since the last European election," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"He's a bit sore because the Democratic Unionist vote has increased.

"I don't know what he is talking about – he's on my case – is this something new?

"Has he not been attempting to undermine the Democratic Unionist Party over the last several years?

"He has to say something, I suppose, to keep his supporters up at a time when they must be down in the mouth after that performance."

Martina Anderson hit out at what she termed the TUV's "political rudeness".

"No one can account for political rudeness like that," she said.

"Everyone should have some kind of political manners, but yesterday's men and yesterday's thinking I can't do anything about."

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