Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

North Down: Alliance 'elated' with Stephen Farry's shock victory

  • Eligible electorate: 67,099
  • Votes polled: 40,842
  • Valid votes: 40,643
  • Turnout: 60.87%
  • Majority: 2,968
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

North Down was supposed to be the DUP’s for the taking after steadily closing in on Lady Sylvia Hermon’s majority in recent years.

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But it was an “elated” Stephen Farry of the Alliance Party who tore up the script with one of one of the biggest shocks of the night by finishing more than 3,000 votes ahead of Alex Easton.

Only going so far as calling the race "competitive" as counting started in the Bangor count centre, all attempts to play it cool from Mr Farry evaporated when his party leader Naomi Long arrived to show her support just before 2am with victory by then all but confirmed.

The Green Party’s decision not to run, having polled over 2,500 in 2017, was a crucial factor with Mr Farry enjoying a final share of 18,358 votes to Mr Easton’s slight increase to 15,390.

Ulster Unionist MLA Alan Chambers received 4,936 votes, with the party choosing to stand again after Lady Sylivia Hermon's surprising decision to retire.

Relishing the early predictions of a Tory majority, Matthew Robinson increased the NI Conservative vote by more than 1,000 to 1,959.

Stephen Farry of the Alliance Party with party leader Naomi Long after he won the North Down constituency (Michael Cooper/PA)

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph afterwards, Mr Farry said the huge result was part of an “Alliance surge” across Northern Ireland.

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With a Conservative majority now in play, Mr Farry said his focus would be to mitigate the effects of Brexit on Northern Ireland.

“That Brexit is very damaging for us in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“There is no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit but this deal does provide some very particular challenges for us.

“And indeed I think there’s a warning for the Prime Minister, while he may well have a working majority that is very much based on English nationalism.

“We have a disunited UK, we have two major parts in Scotland and Northern Ireland taking a radically different approach on Brexit and it’s important he listens to those concerns because if he doesn’t we’re going to see a very dangerous and destabalising context created.”

Borrowing a line from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mr Easton promised his supporters “I’ll be back” after what he called a positive campaign.

Praising Lady Sylvia as a talented MP, he said it was now time to look towards the future of Northern Ireland.

'I do think that people need to start thinking about the future for Northern Ireland and I do think we need to try and the Assembly back and running as soon as possible. I hope that I can partner with my colleagues and other parties to make sure we do that."

In his victory speech, Mr Farry said it was fitting that Alliance elected their second ever MP in Bangor where the party was founded almost 50 years ago.

"This is a much wider victory, this is a victory for the values that this constituency has been known for for many years.

"That of moderation... and inclusion."

He called his predecessor Lady Sylvia "a class act" who provided "quality representation" for the constituency over 18 years.

"And while I'm a different person and from a different political tradition there's much in how she conducts herself I would seek to emulate."

Mr Farry said his mandate was a clear indication that voters in North Down wish to remain in the European Union.

There was defiant heckling from Conservative Party supporters when the new MP acknowledged that Boris Johnson was on course to secure a majority government.

"I have a message for the Prime Minister, indeed a warning, on this," he said.

"The UK is not united on this, Northern Ireland still stands up for remain. And if he is determined to push ahead with a hard Brexit, that will have massive implications and will be very destabalising and indeed destructive."

He added that there was a grave concern from voters that Stormont has been absent for over 1,000 days leaving the health service in crisis.

"There is a very clear message about us getting back to work on the hill and delivering for the people of Northern Ireland."

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