UUP seize two seats in East Antrim at SF's expense

Sinn Fein has lost its seat in East Antrim, and the Ulster Unionists have gained an extra one '“ with SDLP transfers votes credited with helping.

Friday, 3rd March 2017, 9:29 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:08 am
David Hilditch, DUP poll-topper, now shares East Antrim with two - not one - UUP colleagues

Although the DUP is still the overwhelmingly most potent vote-winning party in the constituency, the results show that the area’s political make-up has altered significantly.

Previously there were three DUP MLAs, and one each for the Alliance, UUP and Sinn Fein; now the picture is of two DUP seats, two UUP ones, and an Alliance seat.

One of the UUP winners is a newcomer to the Assembly – John Stewart.

Stewart Dickson is now the third-placed candidate in East Antrim in terms of first preference votes.

He – like some of his colleagues – had given some transfer votes lower down the ballot paper to the SDLP.

In turn, he said that at least a couple of hundred SDLP votes came to the UUP once Margaret McKillop was eliminated – “and that’s what I believe cost Sinn Fein the seat”.

By round eight of counting, Sinn Fein man Oliver McMullan was on 4,699 votes (including transfer votes) and Mr Stewart was on 5,035.

Meanwhile, David Hilditch, long-standing MLA for the area, saw his personal share of the first-preference vote slide from 18.2% in 2016 to 16%.

Stewart Dickson is now the third-placed candidate in East Antrim in terms of first preference votes.

In all, the total DUP share dropped from 36.1% to 35.2%.

However, Alliance increased its share from 14.6% to 16.1%. What is more, Alliance man Stewart Dickson is now the third-placed candidate in terms of first-preference votes, compared to the fourth placed last time.

Two notable losers are Ukip’s Noel Jordan, who was a serious challenger in the 2016 contest, whose vote share this time fell from 6.8% to 4.2%, and the TUV’s Ruth Wilson, who dropped from 5.1% to 4.1%.