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NI election: East Londonderry - Victorious Sugden says she's out for Justice again


First choice: Claire Sugden

First choice: Claire Sugden

First choice: Claire Sugden

Independent unionist Claire Sugden said she would like to continue on as Justice Minister after she was the first candidate elected in East Londonderry.

After a congratulatory kiss from her fiance Andy Anderson, the newly elected MLA told the Belfast Telegraph she would seek to take up the Executive role again.

She said: "I would like to finish the job I started.

"We were putting a delivery plan in place for the next four years, to actually get real work done and to get legalisation in place that would change people's lives.

"Having a seat at the Executive table really did provide opportunities for my constituents that I would never see as a backbench MLA - so how could I give up that opportunity?"

Earlier there were more than a few raised eyebrows after a Sinn Fein candidate topped the poll in the DUP heartland at the Foyle Arena count centre.

The 12% increase in turnout worked well for Caoimhe Archibald, who secured 5,851 first preferences - significantly above the DUP's Maurice Bradley's 5,444, who was the party's big hitter in last May.

And the loss of Adrian McQuillan for the DUP on the eighth count stung the party.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell was quick to point out that at least some of the blame for this lay at the feet of resigned UUP leader Mike Nesbitt.

Mr Campbell said: "Sinn Fein did top the poll but we had three candidates and they only had two.

"We have come out of this with two candidates, which was why we made such an issue of Mike Nesbitt's recommendation that he was going to transfer to the SDLP.

"Mike Nesbitt has to bear some responsibility for that."

As counting continued into the small hours, it was looking increasingly likely that both Maurice Bradley and George Robinson would be returned for Arlene Foster's party.

However, it was all to play for between Sinn Fein's two candidates and John Dallat of the SDLP for the last two seats.

Mr Dallat had conceded he may not get elected, but all that changed later on when he garnered a sizable chunk of transfers which left just nine votes between him and Cathal O hOisin after the eighth count. At least one Sinn Fein candidate looks secure - but despite topping the poll, there was no guarantee it would be Ms Archibald.

>>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

Belfast Telegraph