Jenny Palmer secures UUP seat in Lagan Valley at expense of DUP
THE Ulster Unionists' recruitment of DUP whistleblower Jenny Palmer reaped its rewards with the party taking a seat from its unionist rival in Lagan Valley.
The DUP strike force had been out in action as the party was once again gunning for four of the six seats on offer.
However, a surge from the UUP saw Jonathan Craig squeezed out in this unionist battlefield.
Mr Craig, who has been a sitting MLA since 2007, was eliminated as the DUP failed to stop both Ms Palmer and Robbie Butler being elected for the UUP.
Ms Palmer's election, after only being welcomed into the UUP fold in September, was the main talk of the Lisburn Leisureplex as the counting of votes concluded on Friday night.
Her former party had moved to discipline her following controversy over an alleged attempt by a Stormont adviser to change the way she intended to vote at a Housing Executive board meeting.
She was duly recruited by UUP leader Mike Nesbitt in a bid to dent the DUP's dominance of unionist politics - and did with aplomb.
Speaking after her victory, Ms Palmer said: "I've moved on from the DUP and would like to draw a line in the sand.
"I feel vindicated that the people of Lagan Valley have put their trust in me."
She added that she was "sad to see Jonathan (Craig) has lost his seat, but that's politics".
While the DUP may have lost out, the party still took an impressive 47.2 per cent share of the vote in Lagan Valley with Paul Givan topping the poll with 5,364 votes, just shy of the 5,551 quota.
He was the first candidate elected, in the sixth count, to loud cheers and singing from supporters. The returning MLA was held aloft by his colleagues to the shouts of 'he's a jolly good fellow".
Trevor Lunn, an outgoing MLA who secured 3,707 first preference votes for Alliance, was also returned to Stormont ahead of the two UUP candidates.
Edwin Poots, who was first over the line in the 2011 assembly election, was a little slower to retain his seat this time round and was elected in the eighth count along with party colleague Brenda Hale.
Mr Poots spoke of his delight that more than 19,300 people has voted for the DUP in the constituency.
"This is a resounding result and vote for the DUP from the people of Lagan Valley," he said.
Elected: Paul Givan (DUP), Trevor Lunn (Alliance), Edwin Poots (DUP), Brenda Hale (DUP), Jenny Palmer (UUP), Robbie Butler (UUP).