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McIlveen leads DUP in Strangford

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DUP leader Peter Robinson congratulates Jonathan Bell and Michelle McIlveen on their election to the Strangford constituency

DUP leader Peter Robinson congratulates Jonathan Bell and Michelle McIlveen on their election to the Strangford constituency

DUP leader Peter Robinson congratulates Jonathan Bell and Michelle McIlveen on their election to the Strangford constituency

The DUP's Michelle McIlveen has led her party to a resounding result in Strangford after emerging as the surprise poll topper.

It was a remarkable personal performance from a candidate who four years ago sneaked the sixth seat in the constituency by a handful of votes after 14 counts.

There were no such nerves on Friday night as she notched 4,573 first preference votes, almost 300 ahead of second placed Alliance candidate Kieran McCarthy. Mr McCarthy (4,284) and the DUP's Jonathan Bell (4,265) were also elected on the first count.

Fellow DUP man Simon Hamilton looks odds-on to secure a third seat for the party when the count resumes on Saturday morning as does Ulster Unionist Mike Nesbitt. The UUP's David McNarry and the DUP's Billy Walker will fight it out for the sixth and final seat, although the SDLP's Joe Boyle cannot be ruled out of a surprise result.

It was a very different DUP line-up entering the election with the scandal-hit Iris Robinson having stepped down from public life and Jim Shannon taking her seat at Westminster.

Ms McIlveen said she was thrilled at the result. "I am absolutely delighted and very surprised given my result in 2007 when I was waiting to the very end," she said.

"The party has done extremely well over the last couple of years anyway, but I've just worked hard on the ground and people have rewarded me for that and I am absolutely delighted and so grateful to them for doing that for me."

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The Democratic Unionist Party's Edwin Poots appealed for a unionist pact after topping the poll in Lagan Valley.

The former environment minister said he was overwhelmed by his 7,329 votes in the constituency, more than 2,000 ballots over the quota. Mr Poots said he expects all three of his running mates - Jonathan Craig, Paul Givan and Brenda Hale - to be returned to Stormont along with him.

The DUP MLA said the key issue now is a "coalition" with the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) ahead of the next polls.


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