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Simpson fights off UUP challenge

Published 08/05/2015

David Simpson beat his UUP opponent by 2,264 votes
David Simpson beat his UUP opponent by 2,264 votes

It was a third victory for the DUP's David Simpson as he held on to the Upper Bann seat he took from former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble 10 years ago.

With the UUP fielding the popular figure of Jo-Ann Dobson as the main unionist rival to Mr Simpson, all eyes had been on whether the farmer's wife from Banbridge could manage to unseat the DUP incumbent and regain some momentum for the party's Westminster tally.

In the event, the 49-year-old Northern Ireland Assemblywoman polled 13,166 votes, 2,264 short of Mr Simpson's 15,430.

There were bad-tempered scenes at the declaration, with Mr Simpson slamming what he described as "a despicable attack" on his family on social media.

"I thank God for this victory. Despite what people have thrown at us, it has been a fantastic victory today," he told supporters at Banbridge Leisure Centre.

"One of the sad things is that this campaign had to stoop to the gutter. Nothing said tonight by the opposition can detract from the victory we have in Upper Bann."

Mrs Dobson said she was "buoyed up" by her tally, which was 2,527 more than the UUP's showing in 2010.

"I am delighted that we have increased our share of the vote," she said.

"It was always a unionist seat with no risk of Sinn Fein getting in and tonight's result has confirmed that."

There had been speculation that the lack of an electoral pact between the two main unionist parties might create a split in the unionist vote and leave the way open for Sinn Fein's Catherine Seeley to take the seat.

In the event, Ms Seeley, a schoolteacher, polled 11,593, putting her well ahead of the SDLP's Dolores Kelly, who took 4,238 votes.

Ms Seeley said: "I am personally disappointed, but we set out to enhance our vote and that's exactly what we've achieved."

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