South Antrim: UUP man loses out to DUP challenger

Paul Girvan consoles Danny Kinahan at the Vally Leisure Centre count venue
Paul Girvan consoles Danny Kinahan at the Vally Leisure Centre count venue

Danny Kinahan has lost his seat as Ulster Unionist MP for South Antrim.

After what initially seemed to be quite a tight-fought race, the former soldier conceded defeat to Paul Girvan in the early hours of Friday morning.

Danny Kinahan

congratulates Paul Girvan

Danny Kinahan congratulates Paul Girvan

In the end, Mr Girvan’s share of the vote was fairly comfortably ahead of his rival – standing at 38.2% to 30.8%.

Sinn Fein’s national chairman Declan Kearney came in third, with 18.1% of the vote.

Alliance meanwhile took 7.4% and the SDLP 5.5%.

Turnout in South Antrim leaped from 54.5% in 2015 to 63.4% in this election.

Paul Girvan cheered on by supporters

Paul Girvan cheered on by supporters

The result was described as “bitterly disappointing” by Mr Kinahan, who had only seized the seat from the DUP in 2015.

At that time, the liberally-inclined Mr Kinahan beat DUP hardliner Rev Willie McCrea (with just 2.6% of the vote separating them) – a victory which was greeted by a rendition of ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ from his supporters.

This time around he was consoled by Mr Girvan – who describes himself as a personal friend of Mr Kinahan – as he prepared to deliver his speech conceding defeat to the crowd who were gathered at the Valley Leisure Centre, where the votes had been tallied.

Mr Kinahan told them: “I’m going to have a little time on my hands. So [to] the creep that stole my golf clubs, and raided my wine – I was looking forward to enjoying that. Can I have them back please?”

This is a reference to the fact that just a few weeks ago his home in Templepatrick was burgled and a bizarre haul of items taken, including beer and a jerry can.

Leaving the door open to continuing on in politics, he told the audience: “I haven’t gone away you know.”

Asked afterwards by the News Letter what his next steps may be, Mr Kinahan (who celebrated his 26th wedding anniversary the day before the defeat) said: “I haven’t got anything in mind.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve done at Westminster, and to have that chance to lead for Northern Ireland, and for South Antrim, I’d like to do something again which is helping Northern Ireland, helping us get to a better future.”

Mr Girvan went on to tell a cheering crowd that the DUP had offered a “positive message” in favour of the Union.

“We asked people to unite behind us, and they have done,” he said.

“That’s not just in South Antrim; that’s right across the Province.

“I think as far as the DUP [goes], it is a message for strong leadership. And a lot of people maybe look upon this as an endorsement of one individual.

“But it’s not. It’s an endorsement of a party,.. and the strong leadership that we’ve received from Arlene Foster.”