Assembly Election

#AE17 Lagan Valley: Tug of war continues between DUP and UUP

The DUP's Paul Givan was the first to be elected at the Lagan Valley count
Marie Louise McConville

THE Unionist stronghold of Lagan Valley - where a tug-of-war between the DUP and UUP ensues every election - looks set to experience minimum change in its Stormont line-up, as counting continues.

With 13 candidates vying for five seats, the main hall at the count centre at Lagan Valley LeisurePlex is buzzing with candidates, their families and supporters pacing around, keeping a close eye on those counting the all important votes.

While some candidates can be found crouching in quiet corners, having quiet talks with their closest allies, others can be heard nervously chatting on mobile phones.

Other well-known faces have set up camp in the hall, possibly a show of strength, as they await the first results.

As across Northern Ireland, turnout in Lagan Valley was up nine per cent to 62.5 per cent.

The controversy he courted recently over the Irish language bursary seemed to have little effect on the votes polled by DUP's Paul Givan, who once again topped the poll with an impressive 8,035 votes.

In the declaration room, the former Minister for Communities was the first to be elected in the constituency to loud cheers and roars from party supporters.

Mr Givan posed with a Union flag as supporters shook his hands and patted him on the back.

Following his win, when asked if he would do an interview for the Irish News, the newly elected Assembly Member replied “No”.

Speaking to the other press gathered, Mr Givan said this was an election “that we didn’t want”.

“People could see that Sinn Fein called this election to damage unionism…”

Also polling well is former firefighter, Robbie Butler, who entered politics in 2014.

Having polled 6,846 first preference votes, the Ulster Unionist said it was “looking positive” for him.

“I can’t criticise anyone’s level of effort,” said the 44-year-old.

Mr Butler said he felt UUP leader, Mike Nesbitt had “done a great job”.

Also polling well is the DUP’s Edwin Poots and the Alliance’s Trevor Lunn

Counting continues.

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