Belfast Telegraph

NI election: Lagan Valley - Givan to the fore, but Catney ensures it's mixed night for DUP

By John Mulgrew

The DUP's Paul Givan was on the money when he said the party's third seat in Lagan Valley would go down to the wire - and shortly after 11.30pm it was taken by the SDLP.

Mr Givan topped the poll here, elected on the first count with 8,035 first preferences.

He said: "We knew the campaign was going to be challenging. We were getting feedback on the doors around a range of issues.

As we got closer to polling day we realised there was a consolidation around the party and we were confident we would get the core vote out, and we did."

But it was a mixed night for the DUP, with its third seat from last May taken by the SDLP's Pat Catney.

He claimed the seat from Brenda Hale, and Edwin Poots took the DUP's second seat on the eighth count.

Although it was a slow start, the DUP proved that Lagan Valley remains reasonably safe ground for the party, and showed little fallout from the Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) scandal.

The Ulster Unionist Party's Robbie Butler put in a strong performance and secured the second largest first preference haul after Mr Givan's sturdy first place finish.

Speaking about Mike Nesbitt before the Ulster Unionist leader announced he was stepping down, Mr Butler said he had "done a great job".

He added: "Individually, I couldn't criticise anyone's level of effort... I certainly would be very much supportive of the leader.

"We communicate regularly, and that's the type of leader he is. Mike has done a good job. He has done an excellent job in terms of the Ulster Unionists, from where they were."

It was also a big win for Alliance's Trevor Lunn, who secured around 2,400 additional first preferences.

Mr Lunn said nine or 10 seats in the Assembly would be a big win for Alliance.

He came in and took the third seat during the seventh stage of the count.

Mr Lunn, who has been an MLA for 10 years, said: "The ones we are confident in are the eight that we have.

"I remember Naomi (Long) saying at the start of the campaign that with a reduction in the number of seats, if you can hold your number then that's a very good result.

"But 10 would be fantastic, or nine would be fantastic.

"Anything over eight would be a terrific result."

The TUV's Sammy Morrison, who was running in Lagan Valley for the first time, received 1,389 votes.

Jenny Palmer, who defected from the DUP following the Red Sky controversy, lost her seat after being eliminated following the sixth count.

Her win in 2016 for the Ulster Unionists was a big coup for the party.

There was a temporary flurry for a time, following a recount during the sixth stage.

One vote went to Mr Catney, and one was lost to Mr Lunn - but it had no effect on the outcome.

>>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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