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Peter Robinson in victorious return

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DUP leader Peter Robinson celebrates his poll topping election to East Belfast at Ards Leisure centre

DUP leader Peter Robinson celebrates his poll topping election to East Belfast at Ards Leisure centre

DUP leader Peter Robinson celebrates his poll topping election to East Belfast at Ards Leisure centre

Peter Robinson's journey to political redemption reached another landmark as he topped the Assembly poll in the East Belfast constituency where he lost his Westminster seat.

Twelve months ago the DUP leader experienced the lowest point of his career at Ards Leisure Centre, relinquishing the seat he held for 31 years, a defeat largely blamed on the fall-out from the scandal that engulfed his wife Iris.

He cut an altogether different figure at the centre as delirious supporters cheered him to the rafters as he emerged as top dog in East Belfast. His 9,149 first preference votes was almost 5,000 more than second placed Alliance candidate Judith Cochrane.

Alliance's Chris Lyttle was next with the DUP's other two candidates - Sammy Douglas and Robin Newton - also polling strongly. All will be expected to take seats when counting begins again on Saturday. The UUP's Michael Copeland looks favourite to take the sixth seat ahead of independent incumbent Dawn Purvis and PUP leader Brian Ervine.

With his son Gareth and daughter Rebekah close by, Mr Robinson thanked the voters. "I am very grateful to the people of East Belfast," he said.

He said he did not want to dwell on last year's personal disappointment in the general election, saying: "None of us can change history - it's there and we have to deal with it. What I want to do is to look to the future. I want to see the Democratic Unionist Party taking the lead at Stormont and moving Northern Ireland on."

In East Antrim, Stormont Finance Minister Sammy Wilson was a runaway winner but the announcement that he topped the poll was delayed over a wrangle about nine votes.

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The colourful DUP politician, who is also a Westminster MP, had more than 3,000 votes above the quota, but before the declaration a rival candidate claimed nine votes had been put in the wrong box by electoral staff.

Mr Wilson accused Ulster Unionist Rodney McCune of wasting time by demanding the review. Mr Wilson was the only candidate elected on the first count.

It is expected that two more DUP candidates will take seats in East Antrim along with the Alliance Party and the Ulster Unionist Party.


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