Constituency Profile: Ian Paisley Jnr wins North Antrim
WHILE apprehension was to be seen on the faces of candidates in several count centres across the region on Thursday night, North Antrim was not one of them.
Unsurprisingly, the DUP’s Ian Paisley Jnr steamrolled to victory in a constituency that boasts the longest continuous period any party in the north has held a Westminster seat.
With Foyle, East Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone all to play for as the ballots were counted, in north Antrim there might as well have been just one player.
This sentiment was even echoed by the UUP leader Robin Swann in the count centre in Ballymena, when he said it was a "virtual certainty" the incumbent MP would again come up trumps.
An overwhelmingly unionist area, the turnout was up some 10 per cent from 2015's election with a total of 48,580 votes cast - some 64 per cent of the constituency's electorate.
Although the party had predicted Mr Paisley would increase his vote, none would have fathomed he would by such a massive figure.
Mr Paisley was seen calm and relaxed at the count centre and polled more than 28,000 votes - 20,000 more than his nearest rival, Sinn Féin's Cara McShane, and about 10,000 more than his total last time round.
Continuing to hold the torch passed onto him by his father, the late Reverend Ian Paisley, the victor said he has seen a "unionism awakening" after the comfortable win.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Paisley said the victory reinforced Brexit in the north and the DUP would be looking to make its voice heard at Westminster.
"We will be a voice that speaks for all people and we will get the very best deal for the people in Northern Ireland in the Brexit negotiations," he said.
"There is no turning back, we are into new territory and it will be a good place for our country and for our nation."
He also took the opportunity to call on other politicians to "stop putting up obstacles" and get back into setting up the assembly.
The victory, which was marked with a chorus of God Save The Queen by supporters in the centre, is the third time Mr Paisley has won the North Antrim seat that his father held for four decades.
With the DUP now holding all the cards if Theresa May wants to do a deal to save her Westminster majority, a cabinet position could be on the cards for Mr Paisley if the party push for such concessions in negotiations with the Tory leader.
Ian Paisley (DUP) 28,521 votes 58.85% of vote +15.65%
Cara McShane (SF) 7,878 16.26% +3.98%
Jackson Minford (UUP) 3,482 7.19% -4.87%
Timothy Gaston (TUV) 3,282 6.77% -8.88%
Patricia O'Lynn (All 2,723 5.62% +0.01%
Declan O'Loan (SDLP) 2,574 5.31% -1.67%
Turnout 48,460 (64.05%) +8.82%