Foster survives but DUP falter in Fermanagh South Tyrone
Amidst the jubilation of Arlene Foster topping the poll yet again the DUP lost its chairman in Fermanagh South Tyrone last night.
The DUP leader polled 8,479 first preference votes, 332 less than last year, but was the first over the line, narrowly missing the quota of 8,711. Her party colleague Maurice Morrow lost out.
Speaking after her election a delighted Arlene Foster thanked the electorate for returning her to Stormont.
"Everyone knows I have a great love for the constituency and it is the greatest honour to be returned to Stormont as the first person elected in Fermanagh and South Tyrone," she told UTV.
Despite her own personal vote going down Mrs Foster maintained her success showed the election was not about the renewable heat scandal.
"It may have been the excuse, but it certainly wasn’t the cause and we’ve seen that. The cause of the election was Sinn Féin and republicanism wanting to rerun last year’s election. They have done that and they have mobilized their vote in a very effective way and as I’ve been saying throughout this election campaign it was going to be very close and so it has been the case, but I’m pleased that the DUP has come out as the largest party in terms of votes," she added.
Elation for one DUP candidate, but dejection for another as Maurice Morrow lost a seat he had held since devolution began in 1998.
Initially polling 7,102 first preference votes, he fell behind after transfers from the SDLP's Richie McPhillips brought Rosemary Barton over 1,000 transfers bringing towards the verge of the quota in line for re-election.
Mr McPhillips, who produced one of the shocks of the election when he took a seat last May ahead of Sinn Féin's John Feely, was eliminated at the second stage, with a mobilised Sinn Féin support yielding more than 3,000 extra first preference votes squeezing him out.
At Stage three the SDLP's transfers brought former Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew and newcomer Jemma Dolan over the line leaving it a fight between Rosemary Barton, Sean Lynch and Maurice Morrow for the final two seats.
Going late into the evening the UUP and Sinn Féin were ahead in a tight finish at the Omagh Leisure Centre.
In terms of turnout once again Fermanagh South Tyrone had a very high turnout of 72.6 per cent, an eight percent rise on last May, with Sinn Fein party members stating they were happy with how they mobilised the nationalist vote this time around.