Edwin Poots: DUP had ‘resounding result' in Lagan Valley despite loss of seat to UUP
THE DUP remained defiant despite the loss of one of its seats to the UUP in the unionist battlefield of Lagan Valley.
Edwin Poots, one of the three successful DUP candidates to retain his seat at Stormont, claimed it was a "resounding result and vote of confidence" for his party.
But the DUP suffered the disappointment of losing Jonathan Craig, a sitting MLA since 2007, who failed to be returned.
The party had been hoping to once again secure four of the six seats on offer, but the election of UUP candidates Jenny Palmer and Robbie Butler put an end to the dream.
Paul Givan secured the first seat for the DUP, as well as Mr Poots and Brenda Hale also securing re-election, as did Trevor Lunn of Alliance.
But in his victory speech, Mr Poots maintained that despite the loss of his party colleague, the DUP had secured a "tremendous result".
"I'm just so disappointed for him (M Craig) on a personal level, but I know that Jonathan will have a good future ahead, he is very able, dedicated and hard-working person," he said.
"Over 19,300 people across Lagan Valley voted for the DUP and that is a resounding result and vote of confidence from the people of Lagan Valley in the services that the DUP provide and personally I want to thank each and every one that voted for me and each and every one that voted for the four DUP candidates.
"As we go forward in Northern Ireland and we will go forward under the leadership of Arlene Foster, I believe there are better days ahead and that we can make Northern Ireland a more vibrant and successful place for people to live and create a better future for the next generations."
DUP whistleblower Ms Palmer, who was recruited into the UUP fold in September, gave an emotional speech following her election but also used her time on the podium to pay tribute to Mr Craig.
"It is a difficult thing that I stand here today and knowing Jonathan's work, he had worked very hard for Lagan Valley and we will miss him," she said.
"But I know that he will have another role to play."
Ms Palmer also later commented that her election was "surreal".
"I had drawn a line under all the issues with the DUP when I left them," she said.
"I went out on the doorsteps as a UUP candidate and people put their faith in me. It's a bitter sweet moment."
Her UUP partner in Lagan Valley, newcomer Robbie Butler told of how he will now have to quit his job as a firefighter to pursue his assembly career.
Perhaps winning the best dressed prize at the Lisburn count centre, wearing his three piece check suit, Mr Butler said he was "very grateful to be elected".
"I look forward to greater and better things for Lagan Valley and for Northern Ireland," he said.
Elected: Paul Givan (DUP), Trevor Lunn (Alliance), Edwin Poots (DUP), Brenda Hale (DUP), Jenny Palmer (UUP), Robbie Butler (UUP).