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DUP hold Strangford seat

The fall-out from the Iris Robinson scandal might have contributed to her husband's defeat in East Belfast but it failed to break the DUP's ascendancy in her former constituency of Strangford today.

Jim Shannon's definitive victory was undoubtedly overshadowed by the fall of Peter Robinson in the neighbouring seat, but it was a significant win nonetheless.

The Newtownards pig farmer held off the challenge from TV anchorman turned Conservative and Unionist Mike Nesbitt, notching almost 15,000 votes to the ex journalist's 9,000.

After the result was announced, the long time Ards councillor and former mayor vowed to be a voice for everyone in the constituency.

"As Strangford's new MP I promise to serve Strangford and to serve everyone," he said.

"I look forward to doing just that with the same determination I have had in the past."

Taking over from the disgraced wife of First Minister Peter Robinson looked an tough task for the ex-UDR soldier, especially when the high-profile Mr Nesbitt entered the race vowing to clean up politics.

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Mrs Robinson left the DUP under a cloud and resigned her Westminster and Assembly seats at the start of the year after revelations about her financial dealings with a teenage lover.

Having obtaining two £25,000 loans from wealthy developer friends to help 19-year-old Kirk McCambley to set up a cafe business on the banks of the River Lagan, she failed to declare her interest despite being a member of the council that awarded the tender to her toyboy.

When her husband found out about the affair, Mrs Robinson tried to take her own life and according to the DUP is currently in acute psychiatric care.

Some pundits predicted the scandal could see the DUP losing the seat Mrs Robinson first wrested from the Ulster Unionists in 2001.

But the party's decision to select Mr Shannon paid dividends.

Seen as a safe pair of hands with a long track-record working for constituents, the 55-year-old's local profile was strong enough to see off UCUNF's (Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force) celebrity candidacy.

Mr Nesbitt, husband of UTV presenter Lynda Bryans, admitted his defeat coupled with other reverses for party colleagues, including leader Sir Reg Empey, represented a setback for the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists New Force.

"Tonight probably is not going to go down as a particularly pleasant night for my team," he said.

"I think us and the Conservatives and Unionists have taken a little bit of bloody nose but we've always looked on tonight not just as an event but as part of a process."


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