North Antrim: Ian Paisley safely returned but with reduced majority
The DUP's Ian Paisley has safely regained his seat in North Antrim with over 47% of the vote but a majority reduced by around 8,000.
It is a seat he has held since 2010, having succeeded his late father, the Reverend Ian Paisley, who was the MP from 1970 until his retirement.
It was always going to be a safe bet for Mr Paisley, despite the fact his share is down from 58.9% in the 2017 general election.
In 2018 the MP survived a recall petition after he was suspended from parliament amid controversy surrounding two holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. The petition needed signatures from 10% of constituents to force a by-election.
Commenting on the fact it had been a tricky year for him, he said: "Everything was done in the wider media to try and undermine me, but the electorate of North Antrim are incredibly faithful people. The important thing is that the constituency gets things delivered for them."
The DUP MP’s victory was greeted by the singing of a hymn by his supporters at the Meadowbank sports centre in Magherafelt. While he was returned with a comfortable majority of 12,721 votes over his nearest rival, former Ulster Unionist leader, Robin Swann, Mr Paisley’s share of vote fell by a substantial 11.5 per cent.
Mr Paisley said: “I made a very positive campaign as a member of parliament and I think that campaign speaks for itself. To have almost 50 per cent of the constituency support you after the abuse and the allegations that were made against me and the campaign very ably run and £400,000 spent by the BBC (Spotlight programme) going back and forwards around the world to try and unseat me, I’m very pleased tonight that it didn’t work.”
While he was unlikely to win the seat, the decision by former UUP leader Mr Swann to stand proved a good move as it appeared disgruntled DUP voters swung to him. He recorded an impressive 11.3% rise in his party’s share of the vote over the 2017 election.
“I’m from North Antrim and I’ve represented the Ulster Unionist Party in North Antrim in harder times than this. People need another unionist rather than Ian Paisley,” he said.
The former party leader said Mr Paisley’s suspension from parliament was a major issue in the election campaign.
CANDIDATE VOTE % change since 2017
Ian Paisley (DUP) 20,860 (47.4%) -11.5%
Robin Swann (UUP) 8,139 (18.5%) +11.3%
Patricia O’Lynn (All) 6,231 (14.1%) +8.5%
Cara McShane (SF) 5,632 (12.8%) -3.5%
Margaret McKillop (SDLP) 2,943 (6.7%) +1.4%
Stephen Palmer (Ind) 246 (0.6%) +0.6%
Turnout 44,355 (57.5%) – 6.9%