DUP stalwart David Hilditch tops the poll in East Antrim
IN East Antrim predictably it was DUP stalwart David Hilditch who benefited from the absence of Sammy Wilson from the constituency to be elected at the first time of asking.
Mr Hilditch, who has held his seat since 1998, comfortably beat his best ever election result, polling 2,618 more first preference votes than in 2011 and was visibly beaming when the result was announced.
Mr Hilditch was the clear poll topper taking 5,906 first preference votes and comfortably covering the quota of 4,631.
It was a good election for the DUP with their three candidates set to be returned again and the vote maintained from last year’s Westminster elections.
After the conclusion of stage four of the count the DUP’s Gordon Lyons was just less than 260 votes away his first election to the Assembly, benefitting strongly from transfers, taking 851 at the second stage, but confirmation was not expected until the fifth or sixth round of counting at the Valley Leisure Centre in Newtownabbey.
Speaking to the Irish News Mr Lyons said fears that Sammy Wilson’s absence from the ticket would diminish the vote had been proven to be unfounded.
“There was always going to be that concern when you have that big name that it could cause some problems, but that hasn’t transpired. We’ve actually held the vote from the Westminster elections, I think almost exactly.”
“I’m very pleased at how we’ve performed. Our main concern is that our colleague Alastair Ross also gets elected and we’re confident after transfers that will happen,” he added.
Another expected to gain election was long-standing UUP man Roy Beggs Jr, sitting just over 600 votes behind the quota at the third stage
Keeping up the Alliance representation in the constituency Stewart Dickson at the fourth count was in a strong position to be re-elected as MLA with 3196 votes along with Sinn Fein’s Oliver McMullan (2679.42) and the DUP’s Alastair Ross (2,545.71) looked likely to complete the set.
Transfers may yet have a say in the final standings with the UUP’s John Stewart still in contention and Ruth Wilson from the TUV polling well, but it appears a case of very much of as you were in East Antrim.
In terms of turnout in the constituency there was a marked improvement.
A 47.76% turnout in the 2011 Assembly elections was one of the poorest in Northern Ireland, but it was significantly improved this time with a 51.01% turnout at the polls.
Of the 32,744 ballot papers counted there were 333 invalid votes bringing the total number to 32,411.