Belfast Telegraph

DUP keeps position as largest party

The DUP has retained its position as the largest party in Northern Ireland but the UUP is arguably celebrating harder after landing two surprise wins in the General Election.

The Ulster Unionists are proclaiming a renaissance after candidates Danny Kinahan and Tom Elliott won in South Antrim and Fermanagh and South Tyrone respectively to herald the party's return to parliament after a period without any representation.

Mr Elliott won Fermanagh and South Tyrone from Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew - a rare loss of a Westminster seat for the republican party.

While Mr Kinahan ousted DUP veteran Willie McCrea in South Antrim, the DUP found consolation with a much-craved triumph in East Belfast, where former city mayor Gavin Robinson recaptured the seat his party lost to the Alliance Party's Naomi Long in 2010.

The first exit poll last night suggested the DUP could have been handed some added influence at Westminster if David Cameron fell just short of an absolute majority.

However, it now appears the Tories will not need the support of any other party to govern in the next parliament.

Mr Elliott and Mr Robinson's victories were delivered with the aid of a joint DUP/UUP electoral pact - as was DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds's win in North Belfast.

With one loss and one gain, the DUP emerged from the election as it went in - with eight of Northern Ireland's 18 seats.

Sinn Fein was down one to four, the SDLP retained its three seats, the UUP captured two and independent Sylvia Hermon comfortably retained her North Down seat.

Mrs Long's defeat left the Alliance Party without representation at Westminster.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said it was a good night for pro-Union parties. "This is the best result unionism has had for over a decade," he said.

"We have taken a seat off Sinn Fein. That is a signal which is going to go across the whole of Northern Ireland. Unionism is no longer on the back foot."

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams insisted his party had consolidated recent electoral gains.

"Across constituencies Sinn Fein consolidated and built support," he said.

"In many constituencies we faced a unionist pact held together by opposition to change, opposition to equality and in support of a union that is imposing austerity.

"This was most evident in Fermanagh/South Tyrone where all shades of unionism combined with the Tory party to unseat a republican woman."


From Belfast Telegraph