The Ulster Unionist Party continued its resurgence in South Antrim as Danny Kinahan saw off the DUP’s William McCrea to win a seat at Westminster.
From early on in the count process at the Valley Leisure Centre the DUP tallymen were looking concerned, while their UUP counterparts were quietly confident of taking back the seat previously held by Jim Molyneaux, Clifford Forsythe and David Burnside.
Eventually, in the early hours of the morning, Mr Kinahan and his supporters were able to celebrate as he was confirmed as the new MP for South Antrim, having won a majority of more than 900 votes.
The UUP man said he was “phenomenally grateful” to all those who helped him get elected to the House of Commons, particularly his 75-strong campaign team and all the people who voted for him.
“I want to work at Westminster for the best for South Antrim,” he commented. “I want to really try to make a difference to how Stormont works, how the union is so that it benefits everybody and all the other matters that are important to everyone.”
Mr Kinahan praised his DUP opponent, Dr William McCrea for his hard work for the people of South Antrim over the past decade, but said the outcome of the election showed that people wanted to see a change and a new way forward for politics.
Gracious in defeat, Dr McCrea congratulated Mr Kinahan on his success and praised his own “diligent staff” for their work for the people of the constituency over the years.
“It has been my honour and privilege to serve the people of South Antrim for the past 10 years. It has been a joy and a privilege to serve them in every capacity and every way that I possibly could,” he commented.
Congratulating Mr Kinahan on his election, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt described the Templepatrick man as “perfect for the green benches at Westminster.”
Antrim and Newtownabbey Council UUP group leader, Cllr Mark Cosgrove added: “I am absolutely delighted for Danny and for the centre ground of unionism. We have proved that we can win and I know that Danny will serve all of the people - those who voted for him and also the thousands of people who didn’t.”
Mr Kinahan, an outspoken opponent of so-called double jobbing, confirmed that he will stand down from his role as an MLA at the earliest opportunity.
Eligible electorate: 67,425
Total votes polled: 36,734
Percentage turnout: 54.48
Richard Cairns, TUV 1,908
Alan Dunlop, Conservatives 415
Declan Kearney, Sinn Fein 4,699
Neil Kelly, Alliance 3,576
Danny Kinahan, UUP 11,942
Roisin Lynch, SDLP 2,990
William McCrea, DUP 10,993