Northern Ireland

Lagan Valley too close to call as Alliance’s Sorcha Eastwood closes gap on the DUP

Early tallies point to a potentially historic night for Sorcha Eastwood and Alliance

Lagan Valley candidate, Sorcha Eastwood, pictured at the election count at South Lake Leisure Centre, Craigavon. (Philip Magowan/Phil Magowan / Press Eye)

The race for Lagan Valley remained too close to call in the early hours of Friday morning, with Alliance significantly closing the gap on the DUP’s 6,499 majority from 2019.

Early tallies at the South Lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon suggested Sorcha Eastwood had taken a sizeable proportion of the nationalist vote in the constituency, while the DUP vote for Jonathan Buckley appeared down.

The Ulster Unionist vote also appeared to hold up with Robbie Butler performing well.

Who has been elected in Northern Ireland? Full results from Westminster election.

But most of the early accounts pointed to the constituency emerging as a tight head-to-head battle between Jonathan Buckley and Sorcha Eastwood.

The constituency, held by former DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson since 1997, has never elected a non-unionist candidate since its formation in 1983.

Political analysts had forecast that many factors needed to fall in Sorcha Eastwood’s favour in order for the Alliance candidate to win Lagan Valley.

If the early tallies reflected the outcome across the broader constituency, then Ms Eastwood and her party appeared on the cusp of an historic night for the party.

One tally showed Alliance outpolling the DUP 2:1 in Ballinderry, while Ms Eastwood appeared to be neck and neck with the UUP just behind Mr Buckley in the traditionally unionist Ballymacash.

Tactical voting was evident in the constituency, with the SDLP and TUV vote both well down on the last Assembly election.

One TUV insider said many voters who had backed the TUV in 2022, when it took 3,499 votes, were voting DUP in 2024 in a bid to stop the Alliance surge in Lagan Valley.

But the strength of Robbie Butler’s performance coupled with what appeared to be a general apathy for the DUP in the constituency, particularly in light of the shocking allegations against Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, pointed to a knife edge finish.