Assembly Election

DUP warn Lady Sylvia Hermon that she is 'being put on notice'

 DUP North Down MLA Gordon-Dunne said the area's MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon, was being "put on notice" after the weekend's result
John Monaghan

THE DUP fired a warning shot across the bows of North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon by stating that she was "being put on notice" after retaining its three seats in the constituency.

DUP MLA Gordon Dunne made the remark in his winning speech at the end of the count, in what was one of the slowest of the 18 elections.

Mr Dunne said: "Some people had us written off...but the three musketeers have been returned.

"We are serving notice here today on the Member of Parliament for North Down....it is only a matter of time."

If the DUP is to take the Westminster seat next time round, it will need to perform considerably better than last year's general election, when it polled less than half the tally of Lady Sylvia, who had a majority of more than 9,000 over Alex Easton.

Stephen Farry, the Employment and Learning Minister, secured the final seat in the constituency despite not reaching the quota.

Mr Farry said there was work to be done in the new Assembly and added: "Northern Ireland is not in the place it should be 18 years after the Good Friday Agreement."

The DUP’s vote management strategy worked to perfection, with all three of its MLAs – Gordon Dunne, Alex Easton and Peter Weir – re-elected.

They are to be joined in the Assembly by Green Party leader Steven Agnew and Alan Chambers of the UUP.

It was a hugely successful day for Mr Agnew, who doubled his share of the vote from 2011 and also celebrated the election of Clare Bailey, his deputy, in South Belfast, in the early hours of Saturday.

Mr Agnew polled 4,109 first preference votes, and limped slowly towards the quota of 4,605 throughout Friday, finally being confirmed as an MLA this morning.

He acknowledged his former party colleague Brian Wilson, running as an independent, had slightly affected the timing of his election.

Mr Agnew told The Irish News: "The main difference caused by Brian’s vote was being elected on the first count and having to wait a while.

"I expected to benefit from his transfers but in the end I didn’t need them."

However, both Alliance and the Ulster Unionists missed out on securing a second seat.

Mr Easton’s considerable personal popularity was reflected in 6,357 first preference votes and he was elected on the first count, closely followed by party colleague Gordon Dunne on 4,004, who reaped the reward from transfers.

There were 3,085 first preference votes for the DUP’s third candidate, Peter Weir.

The SDLP and Sinn Féin both secured a combined total of less than four figures, in a constituency which has never elected a nationalist MLA.

In stark contrast to Strangford, the SDLP performed abysmally in North Down, with Conal Browne polling just 426 first preference votes.

Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry, of Alliance, polled 3,012 votes first preference votes, while unionist transfers helped the UUP’s Alan Chambers across the line.

Mr Chambers, formerly an independent, joked: "There have been remarks about when will Alan Chambers become an independent again?

"Keep your money in your pocket...sorry to disappoint you Paddy Power. I am a proud Ulster Unionist."

Alliance’s second candidate, Andrew Muir, benefited from some shrewd vote management, with 2,387 first preference votes, but fell behind on transfers and ultimately failed to make the final cut.

The UUP’s Carl McClean was excluded at the tenth stage with 1,495 first preference votes, and the party’s third candidate, Chris Eisenstadt, dropped out early on Friday.

A turnout of 49.57% was recorded in North Down, where 32,229 valid votes were cast out of a total electorate of 65,670.

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