Sugden tramples on UUP bid to reclaim East Londonderry seat

Claire Sugden, MLA

Claire Sugden, MLA

The UUP has been roundly routed in East Londonderry by an independent candidate.

Claire Sugden, the former assistant to respected independent unionist David McClarty who died during his last term in office, is among four unionists in the seat – with the other three being DUP.

She had performed well, but the final results of the seat were not known by the time the Saturday edition of the News Letter went to press.

However, on Saturday she was officially returned to the seat to which she had been appointed after Mr McClarty’s death in April 2014.

Mr McClarty had been a long-standing UUP man until the party de-selected him for contesting the seat in 2011.

He fought on alone anyway, and won.

Now his successor has not only beaten UUP challengers Aaron Callan and William McCandless in terms of first-preference votes, but actually polled more than both of them put together (a total of 3,720, against 1,067 and 1,789, respectively).

Ultimately, her victory means the party make-up in the constituency remains the same.

The DUP managed to retain its three-fold presence despite party big-hitter Gregory Campbell giving up his Stormont role.

Maurice Bradley takes over from him, joining sitting colleagues George Robinson and Adrian McQuillan who were both comfortably returned.

Despite a sweat in the SDLP camp, Gerry Mullan managed to clinch the seat vacated by stalwart John Dallat, who is standing down after 33 years in politics – 18 of those in the Assembly.

Party celebrations will be tempered by a plunge in the SDLP voter share in the constituency - down from nearly 15 per cent into single digit figures to just over nine per cent.

Over in the Sinn Fein corner, Caoimhe Archibald snapped the seat from her running mate and Stormont incumbent Cathal O Hoisin.

Mr Campbell said the DUP victory was “far beyond our expectations”.

He said: “Some people were trying to say we lost connection with the working class grassroots of the unionist community – the likes of the PUP, and we got 10 times the vote they got, four times the vote of UUP.”