Jim Shannon holds Strangford for DUP

Strangford remains safe seat for the DUP with Jim Shannon calling for unionist unity

Jim Shannon celebrates with his wife after being returned to Strangford. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye (Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye/Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye )

A DUP victory in Strangford for Jim Shannon was never in doubt despite boundary changes bringing in more nationalist areas, but expected gains for the Alliance materialised instead for Sinn Féin.

Mr Shannon appeared quietly confident when he arrived at the Titanic Exhibition Centre shortly before 2am, still insisting on a “wait and see” approach in the three-hours before making an emotional victory speech.

Finishing with 15,559 votes (cutting his majority down from around 7,000 to 5,000), the Alliance Party’s Michelle Guy maintained her party’s share with 10,428 while the UUP’s Richard Smart and TUV’s deputy leader Ron McDowell finished with 3,941 and 3,143 votes respectively.

These three candidates can at least take comfort in their parties all winning new seats in Lagan Valley (Alliance), South Antrim (UUP) and North Antrim (TUV).

The boundary changes saw Strangford town included for the first time as well as all of Ballynahinch and parts of Downpatrick.

Areas like Saintfield and Moneyreagh were lost to the newly created Belfast South and Mid Down constituency.

Sinn Féin’s Noel Sands returned 2,793 votes while the SDLP’s Will Polland had 1,783.

Green Party candidate Alexandra Braidner received 703 votes, independent candidates Gareth Burns and Garreth Falls returned 157 and 256 votes respectively, while Conservative Barry Hetherington received 146.

Known for shedding the occasional tear during Westminster debates, Mr Shannon again took a moment to steady himself at the start of his victory speech.

“Thank you to every person who put their X beside my name, I am humbled and energised by that.”

He repeated calls for unionist unity, with no less than four unionist candidates standing in Strangford.

“Where unionism is divided, unionism loses. My urge for all of the unionist parties that run in this election across this province is simple, unionists need to look at themselves for where they are and work together.”

He congratulated the independent MP Alex Easton on his victory in North Down as an example of parties working together.

As a public servant of nearly 40 years, Mr Shannon said he was “energised” for the next term and promised to work for all constituents.

“No matter who you are or how you voted, I will be the MP for everyone. Thank you for your trust, I’m not going to let you down.”

Commenting afterwards, Mr Smart said: “Thank you to the almost 4,000 people that put their trust in me and my party to deliver better.

“Sadly, this time it was not to be, coming third in the pole, but what you have delivered is a sound platform to build positive pro union leadership in the future.”

With an eligible electorate of 74,525, a total of 39,046 votes were polled in Strangford with 38,911 valid votes and a turnout of 52.39%.