Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

Strangford: Jim Shannon holds for DUP as Alliance double votes

  • Eligible electorate: 66,928
  • Votes polled: 37,669
  • Valid votes: 37,485
  • Turnout: 56.28%
  • Majority: 7,071
Jim Shannon of the DUP celebrates with his mother Mona Shannon and wife Sandra (Michael Cooper/PA)
Jim Shannon of the DUP celebrates with his mother Mona Shannon and wife Sandra (Michael Cooper/PA)
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Showing up at the count centre moments before being returned as MP for Strangford, it seemed like business as usual for the DUP’s Jim Shannon as he posed victoriously for the cameras with his mother.

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But he conceded the campaign was far from easy, with the Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong cutting his safe 2017 majority of over 18,000 down to 7,000.

Mr Shannon also accepted the DUP influence at Westminster is now “greatly withdrawn” with a Conservative majority no longer requiring to be propped up by a confidence and supply deal.

“I think the campaign was quite challenging,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“I always felt that the 62% majority that we got the last time was exceptional and I usually nip myself to remind me that it actually happened.”

On the doorsteps he said bringing back Stormont was by far the biggest issue for voters he had heard.

“For that to happen (Sinn Fein) they also have to play a part, but unfortunately we don’t see that at this moment in time,” he said.

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“But we’re up for the issue of negotiation, we’re up for the idea of finding a way forward. We just need them to play ball with us as well.”

Asked about what effect a Conservative majority would mean for the DUP, he said: “It means that our influence is greatly diminished, but they are the Conservative and Unionist party.

“We just need to remind them that being a unionist in Strangford, in Northern Ireland deserves the same rights as a unionist in Leicester, Manchester or Liverpool.

"Quite clearly at this moment in time, with Boris' agreement, we're not. So therefore we need to use our influence amongst our friends in the Conservative Party to remind them of the importance of being a unionist and what a unionist means.

"We hope that we can do so and can have a working relationship."

With the results for Strangford and North Down announced at the same time in Bangor, Ms Armstrong had twice the cause to celebrate.

With Stephen Farry returned as the second ever Alliance MP, Ms Armstrong doubled her own vote up to 10,364.

“Being one of the smallest people in this election race I have to move this microphone down,” she joked while making her speech.

Congratulating Mr Shannon, she said she was thankful Strangford had not been affected by some of the “particularly unpleasant” election tactics seen elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

As the only woman to run in Strangford or North Down, Ms Armstrong said she was also proud to stand as someone with a disability due to her hearing impairment.

Looking forward, she added to the growing demands to introduce direct rule if no agreement could be reached to restore Stormont by January 13.

“I go back on Monday morning as an MLA and my challenge is set down," she said.

“Northern Ireland deserves an Assembly back again and all parties around the table on Monday morning talking about how we can restore devolution.

“Our MPs can do what they can do at Westminster, but as far as Northern Ireland is concerned we have a health service that is falling apart, we have education that needs reform, we have infrastructure that is in a desperate state of crisis.”

She added: “Alliance is very clear, we have had enough."

Also in the Strangford count, Philip Smith of the Ulster Unionists took 4,023 which puts him slightly from Mike Nesbitt's 4,419 tally from 2017.

There was also a drop for the SDLP's Joe Boyle who received 1,994 votes compared to a total of 2,404 in 2017.

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