Union fears the main concern on the doors - Keith Buchanan

Keith Buchanan will be returning to the Assembly

Keith Buchanan will be returning to the Assembly

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Elected in second place in Mid Ulster, returning DUP MLA Kieth Buchanan said he hadn't expected to win so many votes.

But happy with his comfortable win, which saw him elected just behind Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill, Mr Buchanan saw a sizeable increase on last year's vote - which was split between two candidates.

Polling at 9,568 on the first count, he could also find himself the only returning unionist MLA in the constituency as Sandra Overend and Patsy McGlone battle it out for the last seat.

Speaking to the Mail, he said: "I was very impressed and delighted. I was expecting just over 8,000 votes, but it went in excess of that."

Asked if he thought he might be the only returning unionist, he said: "It's looking unfortunately very like that. I hope that's not the case... but there's a fair bit of distance between Patsy and Sandra."

On the subject of his canvass and the issues that came up, he said the RHI scandal was raised just seven times with him, and that for the most part people were concerned about the safety of the union.

"We started to canvass back in September because I didn't want to be a five year politician that people didn't see for five years," he explained.

"I think that has paid off. From September we canvassed, even right up to the Christmas holidays because we wanted to be out there in our spare time.

"Yes I got a few doors that can be awkward and a little bit troublesome, but the canvass was very good."

And the issue that most concerned his voters, he said was: "Unfortunately the union within the United Kingdom. People were fearful of that and obviously other parties turned that into a bigger thing than it should have been.

"And that's where the anger seems to have went, and that's possibly a reflection of why the vote came from other parties to me."