East Belfast: DUP, Alliance and UUP increase vote as Long tops poll

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long pictured at St Colmcilles Parish Church with husband Michael as they cast their vote.  
Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long pictured at St Colmcilles Parish Church with husband Michael as they cast their vote. Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker

Alliance leader Naomi Long topped the poll in East Belfast and was elected on the first count - but the DUP and UUP joined Alliance in seeing their share of the vote go up.

On a significantly increased turnout – up from 57.2% last year to 63% – Mrs Long polled 7,610 first preference votes, with her running mate and fellow outgoing MLA Chris Lyttle taking 5,059 votes.

That mean that Alliance’s total share of the vote rose from 29% last year to 31% in this election.

But the rise did not come at the expense of either the DUP or the UUP.

The DUP’s three candidates between them polled 15,167 votes - that was 37.5% of the vote, an increase on last year’s 36.7%.

The top DUP candidate was Joanne Bunting, who took 6007 first preferences. She was followed by Robin Newton, the Assembly Speaker, on 4,729 and David Douglas - son of veteran outgoing MLA Sammy Douglas - on 4,431.

The UUP, which only ran one candidate this time, the outgoing MLA Andy Allen, polled 5,275 votes. That represented 13% of the total vote, an increase from the 11.1% which the party took last time.

The PUP’s John Kyle also performed more strongly than last time, taking 6.5% of the vote, up from 4.8% last year.

The Greens, who lost their strong candidate and sitting councillor Ross Brown when he quit politics several months after last year’s election, suffered new candidate Georgina Milne - seeing their vote fall from 5.9% to 3.6%.

In line with the improved nationalist picture across Northern Ireland, Mairead O’Donnell for Sinn Fein increased the party’s vote in one of its most difficult seats – going up from 2.5% to 2.9%.

SDLP candidate Seamas De Faoite – for whom UUP leader Mike Nesbitt famously said he would give his second preference – slightly increased his party’s low share of the vote from 0.4% to 0.6%.

Independent leftist candidate Courtney Robinson of Cross-Community Labour Alternatives saw her share of the vote fall from 1.4% to 1.1% of the total vote.

Independent ‘comedy candidate’ Jordy McKeag polled just 84 votes.

Several candidates who stood last time were not on ballots - including independent Maggie Hutton, who took more than 1,000 votes last year, and Ukip’s Jonny Lavery who took more than 600 votes last time.