East Belfast: DUP's Robin Newton hangs on as party loses third seat
Former assembly speaker Robin Newton managed to scrape through in East Belfast in a head-to-head battle with his party colleague for the final seat.
Amid a bruising election night for the party across Northern Ireland, the DUP lost one of its three seats in the constituency where it long held dominance.
The DUP’s Joanne Bunting, who polled 6,007 first preferences, was re-elected on the ninth count – leaving her running mates Mr Newton and David Douglas fighting for the fifth seat.
As Stormont speaker, Mr Newton had faced a no-confidence motion following criticism over his handling of assembly debates on RHI and loyalist community organisation Charter NI.
DUP constituency office worker Mr Douglas was fielded as a candidate after his father Sammy Douglas stood down ahead of the election.
But Mr Newton received more first preferences with 4,729 compared to 4,431 for Mr Douglas, and retained his seat on the eleventh count by managing to stay ahead on transfers.
Last year the DUP held three seats, Alliance had two and the Ulster Unionists one – but the contest got tougher this year as the number of places was reduced from six to five.
Ulster Unionist Andy Allen received 5,275 first preferences and was re-elected on the ninth count – returning to Stormont as the party’s only MLA in the whole of Belfast.
The 28-year-old, left, said he was looking forward to continuing his constituency work, but was “gutted” for UUP colleagues across the north who had lost their seats.
Alliance retained both its seats. Party leader Naomi Long topped the poll with 7,610 first preferences – almost 1,000 above the quota of 6,727 and over 2,000 more than she received last year.
Her party colleague Chris Lyttle notched up 5,059 first preferences and held his seat on the eighth count.
Mrs Long described the result for Alliance as “hugely encouraging”.
Reflecting the trend seen across Northern Ireland, East Belfast had an increased voter turnout of 63.02 per cent compared to 57.23 per cent last year.
Independent candidate Jordy McKeag – an 18-year-old former Orange bandsman who had pledged to gamble his MLA salary on a 1000/1 accumulator to pay off the RHI overspend – received 84 first-preference votes.