DUP figure '˜100%' behind Arlene as party loses South Antrim seat

A DUP stalwart who has lost a seat he held for a decade has said he still fully backs the leadership of Arlene Foster for the party.

Saturday, 4th March 2017, 12:07 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:11 am
Trevor Clarke has now lost his old seat

Trevor Clarke’s position had looked somewhat tenuous prior to the counting of the ballots – he received the fewest first preference votes of all three DUP candidates last year.

With the number of seats up for grabs per constituency dropping from six to five, it had seemed likely that a DUP figure may lose out.

It looked extremely close – in the sixth of eight stages of counting, just one vote separated Mr Clarke from colleague Pam Cameron.

Press Eye © Belfast - Northern Ireland 3 March 2017 NI Assembly Election 2017 Count at Valley Leisure Centre in Newtownabbey for East Antrim and South Antrim constituencies. Steve Aiken OBE and his wife Beth UUP elected for South Antrim Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye ©

But in the end, Ms Cameron edged ahead of him by about 150 votes, joining the party’s Paul Girvan.

For the UUP, Alliance and Sinn Fein, last night was a triumph in South Antrim.

David Ford’s seat had looked dicey last time around, and he finished in seventh place in the first preference vote stakes in 2016.

However, his vote share went up from 8.9 per cent to 12.5 per cent this year.

Press Eye © Belfast - Northern Ireland 3 March 2017 NI Assembly Election 2017 Count at Valley Leisure Centre in Newtownabbey for East Antrim and South Antrim constituencies. Steve Aiken OBE and his wife Beth UUP elected for South Antrim Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye ©

The UUP’s Stephen Aiken was the fifth place contender in terms of first preferences in 2016, with 9.3 per cent of the first preference votes.

This time, he surged to second place, ahead of all three DUP candidates, each one of which had beaten him last time, with 14.8% of such votes.

But the top figure in the constituency in first preference terms was Sinn Fein’s Declan Kearney.

He took 16.3 per cent of the total, compared with 13.2 per cent last time.

Speaking to the News Letter afterwards, at a time when a Province-wide picture was emerging of the DUP trailing Sinn Fein by several seats, Mr Clarke said: “I’m 100 per cent behind the party leader. I think the party leader has done an amazing job.

“One of the things I did hear on the doors was that they’re backing Arlene Foster.”