DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly retakes South Belfast for unionism

New DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly at the election count at Titanic Exhibition Centre Belfast.
Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
New DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly at the election count at Titanic Exhibition Centre Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly has unseated one of the big beasts of the SDLP, Alasdair McDonnell.

The former DUP MLA took South Belfast from the former SDLP leader on a night when her party surged across Northern Ireland.

A collapse in the UUP vote and the absence of a Ukip candidate were key to the former DUP Spad coming in ahead of Dr McDonnell with 13,299 votes to his 11,303.

Despite both Alliance’s Paula Bradshaw and Sinn Fein’s Máirtín Ó Muilleoir talking up their chances of taking the seat, both came far behind the front runners.

The Alliance candidate took 7,946 votes and Sinn Fein took 7,143 to finish fourth.

The UUP’s Michael Henderson saw his vote fall to just 1,527 as unionists voted tactically for the unionist who could win.

Clare Salier of the Tories took just 246 votes.

In her acceptance speech, Mrs Little-Pengelly paid tribute to the work of Dr McDonnell, who was first elected MP in 2005.

She thanked those who came out to vote for her, singling out several loyalist working class areas such as Taughmonagh and the Donegall Pass.

And the new MP paid particular tribute to her campaign manager, former First Minister Peter Robinson, who she said had come out of retirement for the task.

Dr McDonnell was accompanied on to the podium by his young daughter before making a speech which was as gracious in defeat as the victor’s had been in triumph.

The former SDLP leader said that he took heart from some of what Mrs Little-Pengelly had said in her speech and hoped that she would work for everyone in the constituency.