A beaming Arlene Foster refused to be drawn on a possible pact with the Tories when she arrived in jubilant mood at the South and East Antrim count centre in the early hours of Friday.
Although results were not formally in, the DUP leader rejoiced with both East Antrim candidate Sammy Wilson and Paul Girvan, the DUP man vying to take South Antrim from the UUP.
Early suggestions are that East Antrim has been won by Mr Wilson with a surge in the DUP vote.
In South Antrim, the picture is still unclear, but there are suggestions that the DUP has seized the seat from Danny Kinahan.
Mrs Foster said she did not want to predict, as of about 1.30am, how many of Northern Ireland’s 18 seats the DUP had won.
But she said she was “very pleased with how people have reacted to the very positive message of the campaign, the fact that we were saying this is about the Union”, adding (to loud cheers and applause) that the results reflect that “Northern Ireland very much wants to stay in the United Kingdom, and that Northern Ireland is British”.
On the potential for a pact with the Tories, she said: “Of course, we’ve always said whatever the outcome of the election, we will do what is best for Northern Ireland, and best for the constituencies we represent.
“The exit poll (predicting the Conservatives would not have an overall majority) is just that – it is an exit poll”, rather than an official result.
She said the DUP wants to see the actual results, “and then we will make an assessment, probably first thing in the morning”.
She was asked if she would have any objection to a DUP-Tory pact, and replied: “We’re not going to get into hypotheticals now. I think what it is important to say is whatever happens throughout the night, we’ll do what is best for our constituents, and also best for the people of Northern Ireland.
“That’s always what we’ve said and that’s what we’ll stick to.”