DUP leader Gavin Robinson sees off East Belfast challenge from Alliance leader Naomi Long

Gavin Robinson finished over 2,000 votes ahead of Naomi Long despite other unionist competition

DUP leader Gavin Robinson shakes hands with Alliance Party leader Naomi Long after retaining his seat in the East Belfast constituency
DUP leader Gavin Robinson shakes hands with Alliance Party leader Naomi Long after retaining his seat in the East Belfast constituency (Liam McBurney/PA)

The sun was starting to rise in Belfast by the time DUP leader Gavin Robinson finally appeared at the count centre to victory cheers and hugs from his supporters.

It followed a long night where stacks of ballot papers piled up under Long and Robinson appeared to be neck and neck and one prediction even putting the Justice Minister 0.05% ahead.

After his rowdy welcome, Mr Robinson spoke to the media in measured tones and said he expected “a good result” for East Belfast, but it had been a bittersweet night for his party after losing seats in Lagan Valley and North Antrim which he blamed on divided unionism.

Anticipation for the so-called ‘Titanic showdown’ between Mr Robinson and Alliance leader Naomi Long was high, especially with the TUV and other parties fielding candidates which made the DUP victory far from certain.

In the end, Mr Robinson was mistakenly announced as the MP for “Bangor East,” taking 19,894 votes to Mrs Long’s 17,218.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th July 2024  

Gavin Robinson, DUP pictured at the UK general election count in the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast where counting takes place for Belfast East, Belfast West. Belfast North, Belfast South & Mid Down, North Down and Strangford.

Of the 650 MPS that will be elected, 18 will represent constituencies in Northern Ireland. 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye
Gavin Robinson, DUP pictured at the election count (Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye/Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye )

The TUV’s John Ross finished third with 1,918 votes, closely followed by the UUP’s Ryan Warren on1,818 and the Green Party’s Bryan Smyth on 1,077.

With a total electorate of 72,917, 42,890 votes were polled with a turnout of 58.82%.

Mr Robinson had been criticised for a harsh tone to his victory speech in 2019, but there was more civility to wards Mrs Long on this occasion.

“To Naomi, fourth time in a row I want to say ‘we have to stop meeting like this.’ But, genuinely everybody who puts themselves forward for election does so because they believe in their constituency and their community,” he said.

Speaking upon his arrival earlier, he called the DUP’s loss in Lagan Valley “the consequence of divided unionism.”

“I think that you can see that there are constituencies in Northern Ireland where there isn’t the luxury in a first past the post election to shop around.”

Despite losing out, Mrs Long said she was glad for amore positive tone to the election campaign.

“It isn’t easy thing to put yourself up for election but it is an important thing do....I enjoyed this campaign more than any other campaign I have had to fight.

“Because it was a positive campaign and one I had to fight, because it was a positive campaign and it was one that was focused on the issues.”

She added: “Gavin will know that when you run as a leader it isn’t just about your own constituency, it’s about so much more.

“Every debate is not just about East Belkfast, it’s the wider party.”

With her party colleagues Stephen Farry losing out in North Down and Sorcha Eastwood winning Lagan Valley, she said: “It may not have been my night, it may not have been Stephen’s night, but it was certainly Alliance’s night.”

Gavin Robinson won in East Belfast