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Upper Bann 'one of dirtiest elections ever'

PACEMAKER BELFAST 07/052015.David Simpson of the DUP is deemed elected in Upper Bann at the count in Banbridge, County Down, one of eight centres across Northern Ireland.Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press.

The toll of a tough campaign was obvious at the Upper Bann count centre in Banbridge as DUP man David Simpson was returned to Westminster by an ultimately comfortable margin.

Simpson - who'd had two previously unsuccessful attempts at prising the seat from the UUP before finally ousting David Trimble in 2005 - described it as "a fantastic victory".

But he also lashed out at "despicable attacks" on his family (he has three adopted children) from unionist quarters and said the campaign had "stooped to the gutter".

"They haven't heard the end of this," he said.

Simpson had earlier exercised his own democratic right by placing an 'X' against a UUP rather than DUP runner.

He lives at Annaghmore, geographically just 20 yards outside the Upper Bann boundary, but inside the Fermanagh-South Tyrone constituency, where Tom Elliott was the agreed unionist candidate.

Despite Upper Bann having always been in unionist hands - it's historically had a broad 60-40 orange-green split - Simpson had talked up the possibility of Sinn Fein slipping through the middle and cautioned against a vote for Jo-Anne Dobson of the UUP. There was no pact here.

There were some unsavoury scenes during the declaration, although they stopped short of the physical jostling of past Banbridge counts.

Simpson's 32.7 per cent share was down on 2010, with Dobson lifting the UUP total by more than 2 per cent.

She insisted: "I can hold my head high. I will only ever be involved in a fair fight."

Sinn Fein's Catherine Seeley retained most of the vote previously entrusted to John O'Dowd.

"Upper Bann is now a safe seat for nobody," she declared.

Dolores Kelly's 9 per cent share of the poll was well down on five years ago, and she too had strong words during the closing formalities.

"If today is an example of how to build a reconciled society, we're a long, long way off, because this has been one of the dirtiest elections I've ever had to be part of," the veteran SDLP woman said.

During various intervals of the evening, though, all the main protagonists had separately agreed on one thing - that an area with the biggest manufacturing base of any constituency outside Belfast hadn't put the economy front and centre of their canvassing.

It seems they were too busy at each other's throats for that.

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Name Party Votes % +/-

David Simpson DUP 15,430 32.7 -1.2

Jo-Anne Dobson UUP 13,166 27.9 n.a

Catherine Seeley SF 11,593 24.6 -0.2

Dolores Kelly SDLP 4,238 9 -3.8

Peter Lavery Alliance 1,780 3.8 +0.8

Martin Kelly Cista 460 1 n/a

Damien Harte WP 351 0.7 n/a

Amandeep Singh Bhogal Con 201 0.4 n/a

Majority: 2,264 Turnout: 59%

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