General Election

So 'who are the DUP?' was the most asked question on Google

DUP leader Arlene Foster hugs new South Belfast MP Emma Little Pengelly as former leader Peter Robinson looks on. Picture: Hugh Russell 
Digital staff

The DUP was the most searched-for political party after exit polls suggested a hung parliament.

The Conservatives are on course to be the largest party but will not have an overall majority.

That means a hung parliament, which could give Northern Ireland's largest party a crucial role in the balance of power. 

Google Trends data at 1.50am showed that in the previous hour of searches for political parties in the UK, 29 per cent were for the DUP, 21 per cent for the Labour Party and 12 per cent for the Conservative Party.

The DUP's website appeared this morning to be struggling to cope with the traffic levels. 

The north's two largest parties dealt a series of devastating blows to their rivals to emerge from the General Election stronger than ever.

The DUP and Sinn Fein made significant gains as the Ulster Unionists and SDLP were wiped off the Westminster map.

Although Sinn Féin has made clear it will not drop its abstentionist policy regardless of the final shake down in parliament, the DUP has indicated its willingness to talk with the Conservatives if they require support to form a government.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was too early to say if her party would play any role in supporting a Conservative government, but she admitted that Prime Minister Theresa May now faces a challenge to her leadership.

"It's too soon to say what we're going to do yet," she told  the BBC. "I think we need to see the final make up of Parliament and then we'll reflect on that.

"I certainly think that there will be contact made over the weekend but I think it is too soon to talk about what we're going to do."

Jeffrey Donaldson, who romped home to retain his Lagan Valley seat, said this morning that the the DUP was willing to talk with the Conservatives in the event of a hung parliament.

"This is perfect territory for the DUP because obviously if the Conservatives are just short of an overall majority it puts us in a very strong negotiating position," he said.

"Certainly that is one we would take up with relish", he said.

He pledged to continue to support the Conservatives on issues such as Brexit. 

The SDLP and UUP, the two parties who together forged the Good Friday Agreement and for decades held the pre-eminent positions in the north, are now without a single MP between them.

The biggest shock of the night came in Derry where Sinn Fein captured the SDLP citadel of Foyle, the seat of former leader John Hume.

Alasdair McDonnell lost his seat in South Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell 

Beaten candidate Mark Durkan apologised to Mr Hume in an emotional speech but insisted the party still had a future.

 SDLP lost Foyle in a shock result 

Sinn Féin also took an SDLP scalp in South Down, dethroning former party leader Margaret Ritchie.

The DUP seized the last SDLP stronghold in South Belfast, wrested back South Antrim from the UUP and saw off the challenge of the Alliance Party and Sinn Féin in East and North Belfast respectively.

The counting ended with the DUP taking 10 of Northern Ireland's 18 seats, Sinn Féin seven and independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon retaining her North Down constituency.

DUP leader Arlene Foster declared it a "good night for the Union".

"We are very pleased with the way in which people have reacted to the positive message of the campaign, it was about the Union, the importance of the Union, and unionists have really come out in their numbers," she said.

"We fought this election on the importance of the Union and I think people really responded to that."

Her party colleague Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who romped home in Lagan Valley, said the DUP was willing to talk with the Conservatives in the event of a hung parliament.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams made clear there was "no danger whatsoever" of his party ditching its abstentionist policy, even if its seats become crucial in the final reckoning.

Mr Adams also said he could not see Prime Minister Theresa May surviving in her post.

"There is no danger whatsoever of us taking our seats in the Westminster parliament," he said.

He credited Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with fighting a good campaign despite "media bias".

"I don't know how Theresa May can survive this, that's a matter for her party, of course," he said.

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