NI Election: West Tyrone - Crocodiles of the west have bared their teeth, says SF
West Tyrone has lost its Ulster Unionist representation at Stormont after a nail-biting election that saw nationalists win big.
Alicia Clarke, who replaced Ross Hussey, lost the party's seat. The daughter of a Church of Ireland minister, Miss Clarke expressed liberal views on abortion and same-sex marriage during the election campaign, views that some in her party privately described as "unhelpful".
Barry McElduff, Michaela Boyle and Declan McAleer won three seats for Sinn Fein, while Daniel McCrossan secured his seat for the SDLP.
A surprised Mr McAleer admitted he didn't have a speech prepared as he stood on the stage in Omagh Leisure Centre as a returned MLA.
He was the most vulnerable Sinn Fein candidate and the one most people, including himself, thought would be the party's election casualty.
After long-serving MLA Mr McElduff was elected on the first round of counting with 7,573 votes he announced - much to the delight of his supporters - that the crocodiles "have bitten back".
He said that people in his constituency were left "aghast" at DUP leader Arlene Foster's comments about nationalists and republicans throughout the election period.
"That's being crocodiles with an insatiable appetite," he said.
"Our appetite is for equality and respect and we won't settle for anything less. Over 21,000 first preference votes for Sinn Fein in West Tyrone, that will tell you that in Arlene's lexicon there must be in excess of 21,000 crocodiles who have bitten back."
Also back in his seat is DUP man Thomas Buchanan who was returned comfortably - as predicted - with over 9,000 first preference votes.
A delighted Mr Buchanan almost doubled his share of votes compared to last year's Assembly election, showing clearly that the RHI scandal was far from the minds of his supporters in this constituency.
With three elected, time ticked on slowly for the West Tyrone area.
Alliance transfers carried the SDLP's Daniel McCrossan over the line.
Then, on the fifth count, the last remaining Sinn Fein candidate took the final seat - a major success for the party..
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 Digital