Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin top the poll in DUP heartland of North Antrim

The DUP's Mervyn Storey at the North Antrim count
Connla Young

SINN Féin made more history yesterday when it topped the poll in the former Paisley stronghold of North Antrim.

Philip McGuigan bagged 7,600 votes to put his party top of the pile in an area dominated by the DUP.

He was the first to reach the quota in the strongly unionist constituency after the sixth count in Ballymena.

Mr McGuigan was joined a short time later by the UUP's Robin Swann, leaving a four-way unionist fight for the remaining three seats.

Although no-one managed to reach the 8,280 quota, the DUP showed well with Paul Frew leading the charge on 6,975 first preferences.

Former Stormont minister Mervyn Storey was close behind on 6,857 while Philip Logan also secured 5,708.

After the first count TUV leader Jim Allister was on 6,214 votes.

When outgoing MLA Philip Logan was eventually eliminated on the eighth count, Mr Frew and Mr Storey were declared elected without reaching the quota along with Mr Allister.

Mr McGuigan's victory came after a rocky period for his party in North Antrim after former MLA Daithi McKay was suspended amid allegations that he coached loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson before giving evidence to a Stormont committee about the Nama scandal.

Mr McKay later resigned from the party along with some other members and one, former councillor Monica Digney, stood against Sinn Féin as an independent, polling 435 votes.

Mr McGuigan said he was delighted with his party's performance.

“It's a tremendous result, it's historic in north Antrim, Sinn Féin topping the poll in what would be considered a DUP heartland,” he said.

“This was a big election, the issues at stake were big issues. The people of north Antrim understood all of that."

He said his party ran a positive campaign and is now “stronger now than it has ever been”.

Mr Swann, who was the last person elected in the constituency in 2016, also said he was "proud and very pleased" at his performance this time around.

The SDLP's Connor Duncan, meanwhile, was content with his party's showing after he polled 3,519 votes.

“We have increased our vote and our long-term plan is to continue growing,” he said.

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