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

David Hilditch, DUP poll-topper, now shares East Antrim with two - not one - UUP colleagues
David Hilditch, DUP poll-topper, now shares East Antrim with two - not one - UUP colleagues

Sinn Fein has lost its sole seat in East Antrim, and the Ulster Unionists have gained an extra one – with the DUP vote seeing a squeeze.

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

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

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

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 is a newcomer to the Assembly – John Stewart, whose day was nerve-wracking for two different reasons.

He was joined by his wife Deborah, who is seven months pregnant. The count finished up unusually early in the evening, and because he had not expected the results until today, Mr Stewart had arrived at the venue wearing Converse trainers and a hoodie.

“Someone said: ‘John, you’d better get home and actually get changed into something a bit more smart’,” he said.

“So we rushed home, and on the way back I thought Deborah’s waters were going to break ... it was just the frantic nature of the whole day.”

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 elminiated.

Mr Stewart and Sinn Fein man Oliver McMullanremained close up until the end, but a transfer of surplus votes from the DUP’s Gordon Lyons saw him comfortably over the ine at the end.

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%.

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 first-preference terms, compared to the fourth 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%.

RESULTS:

• Roy Beggs (UUP) Elected 5,121

• Ricky Best (Independent) 106

• Stewart Clyde Dickson (Alliance) Elected 4,179

• Danny Donnelly (Alliance) 1,817

• Alan Dunlop (Cons) 152

• David Hilditch (DUP) Elected 6,000

• Noel Jordan (UKIP) 1,579

• Gordon Lyons (DUP) Elected 3,851

• Margaret Anne McKillop (SDLP) 1,524

• Oliver McMullan (Sinn Fein) 3,701

• Dawn Patterson (Green) 777

• Stephen Ross (DUP) 3,313

• Conor Sheridan (Cross-Community Labour Alt) 393

• John Stewart (UUP) Elected 3,377

• Ruth Wilson (TUV) 1,534