Belfast Telegraph

NI Election: North Antrim - DUP shocked as McGuigan leads in the unionist-dominated Ballymena

It was difficult for die-hard DUP supporters in North Antrim to lose one of their seats in the heartland of the late Ian Paisley - but perhaps even harder to watch on as Sinn Fein topped the poll in the constituency for the first time.

For the first time ever, a Sinn Fein candidate - Philip McGuigan - spoke first at the end of the election count at Ballymena's Seven Towers Leisure Centre, one of the benefits of coming home first.

Former Derry GAA player McGuigan, now a keen amateur cyclist living in Dunloy, was happy to make history.

He said: "I am delighted, it's a tremendous result, it's historic in North Antrim, Sinn Fein topping the poll in what would be considered a DUP heartland.

"This was a big election, the issues at stake were big issues.

"The people of North Antrim understood all of that." However, Mr McGuigan left the platform before the DUP's re-elected Mervyn Storey launched into the party's traditional election hymn in North Antrim, followed by the National Anthem.

Mr Storey said the Sinn Fein result in the constituency had been "a wake up call for unionism".

The reduction in seat numbers from six to five meant the DUP's Phillip Logan - elected only last year - departs the scene.

Ulster Unionist Robin Swann was swept back into Stormont with the help of transfers from the SDLP and Alliance.

TUV chief Jim Allister will also be back in the corridors of power but his party's ambition of getting a second seat in North Antrim was thwarted again.

Mr Allister said he would continue to be "a thorn in the flesh" of Sinn Fein and the DUP.

The TUV leader added: "This is a poor day for unionism, a day that need not have arrived but for the arrogance and the bungling of Mrs Foster which has delivered for the first time in Northern Ireland's history the absence of a unionist majority at Stormont."

The DUP's Paul Frew from Broughshane also retained his seat for the DUP.

Full break down

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