East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has declared he is proud of what the DUP has done under Arlene Foster – the woman whom he considered challenging for the role of party leader.
Mr Wilson was speaking after the DUP once again dominated East Antrim by winning three seats – although lead running Davy Hilditch polled below Mr Wilson when the latter stood in 2011.
He was asked if he feels the party would have performed better if he had indeed followed-through on his challenge to become party leader.
He said: “It’s very difficult to know. I’m pleased that first of all I think that Arlene has proven herself to be a very good candidate for the leadership. She has proven herself to be a very adequate leader.
“She has spelled out the vision for Northern Ireland, and the people have responded.
“I don’t know if they would have responded as well to me than they have to her! That’s immaterial now. She’s the leader. She’s got my backing, and I’m really proud that she has done so well in this election and that we now have a very strong team.”
Asked if the two were still close and talking to one another he said that they were, adding that there had been no “animosity” between them – and that in fact they had spoken on Saturday morning, when he congratulated her.
On Saturday, Roy Beggs – veteran UUP man and successful MLA candidate for East Antrim – hit out at the DUP’s campaign.
Much had been made of the threat posed by a potential Sinn Fein surge in the vote, which could lead to the party securing the role of First Minister.
Mr Beggs took to a podium in the Valley Leisure Centre, where the previous night DUP man Trevor Clarke had taken a swipe at the UUP for its own campaign.
Mr Beggs said: “For us, it’s been disappointing the fear factor that has come into this campaign.
“And as the results show, it’s been overplayed throughout Northern Ireland, with no chance of Sinn Fein actually overtaking a unionist First Minister.
“We hope that in the future, the electorate will feel less intimidated and abused by such a process and that they will accurately reflect on their over-representation.”