North Down: DUP's Alex Easton calls for unionists to 'unite behind one party' after topping poll
THE DUP’s poll-topper in North Down called for unionists to “unite behind one party” as the move to a five-seat constituency saw the party lose an MLA.
Alex Easton, who was returned on the first count with more than 8,000 votes, spoke of his disappointment as unionism lost its assembly majority for the first time.
“Unionists lost quite a few seats. It is time to unite behind one party. It is vitally important that we stop in-fighting and unite together,” he said.
Otherwise it was largely a case of deja vu at the North Down count, with five MLAs seeking re-election all returned.
The only face missing from last May was the DUP’s Peter Weir, who had switched to contest Strangford.
His party took 37.5 per cent of the first preference vote, a drop of just over 4 per cent from last year.
Mr Easton’s total helped bring home his party colleague Gordon Dunne, who praised leader Arlene Foster who he said had “taken so much flak and abuse” in the run-up to the election.
Ulster Unionist Alan Chambers and Alliance’s Stephen Farry both doubled their votes and were elected at the first stage as their parties also ran fewer candidates.
Mr Chambers said the “public will not forgive us” if a functioning assembly is not restored, adding: “The message on the doors was clear – get back to work.”
Mr Farry said it had been a “great night” for Alliance but a battle between unionism and nationalism “will not deliver the type of future that the people of Northern Ireland want”.
In a repeat last May, Green Party leader Steven Agnew, above left, polled well but spent most of the evening inching towards the finish line, eventually being elected under quota.
He spoke of his frustration at the impasse at Stormont and need to avoid another election.
“I came into politics to effect change. We have not delivered anything in the last six weeks,” he said.
Outside of the five winners, only Melanie Kennedy, an independent candidate battling terminal cancer who has had difficulty securing drugs available in other parts of the UK, secured more than 1,000 votes.