The UUP’s Robbie Butler has said “brave decisions” now need to be taken in order to get the Assembly up and running again.
The former firefighter retained his seat at Stormont after polling more than 6,800 first preference votes - 2,400 more than in last year’s election.
“I suspect given the shenanigans previously that it’s going to be a long haul, but I sold a message of hope and I hold fast to that message of hope,” he said.
“Brave decisions need to be taken and we need to get on and address the issues that are important to people - health, the economy, jobs and that type of thing - and get back onto those topics and get away from this blood lust to dominate the other person.”
Reflecting on the contest in Lagan Valley, Mr Butler believes his use of social media was “crucial” in helping him reach younger voters.
“I’m delighted from a personal perspective and the support I received in terms of first preference votes, but on another note I’m devastated that Jenny Palmer (his UUP running mate), and Brenda Hale (DUP), didn’t get in,” he said. “They were two of the better MLAs we had and both were at the top of my preference list for my own personal transfers.”
Mr Butler said Mike Nesbitt’s comments about transferring his personal vote to the SDLP was undoubtedly a talking point on the doorsteps, but claimed the issue had made “no impact locally”.
“Our vote was up 35 per cent. It was the first time the Ulster Unionists have broken the 10,000 first preference mark in Lagan Valley since (Jeffrey) Donaldson,” he continued.
Reflecting on Mr Nesbitt’s decision to quit the party leadership, Mr Butler said he had to put his family first and that it was “probably the right decision”.
“For the Ulster Unionist Party it is crucial that we take the time to look at what’s happened. It’s almost unbelievable that we actually increased our vote overall in Northern Ireland, but unfortunately we lost too many seats, so we need to regroup and think very carefully about how we go forward,” he added.