DUP MP Gregory Campbell paid tribute to his late constituency colleague and former president of the party James McClure before laying into the SDLP and the the media in his victory speech at the Templemore Count Centre on Friday.
Mr Campbell was reelected in East Londonderry for the third time and has now held the seat since taking it from Willie Ross in 2001.
Absent a challenge from the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) this year Mr Campbell had little difficulty dispatching the nearest unionist, the UUP’s William McCandless, mopping up the vast majority of the unionist vote.
Though in suitably good spirits at 4.30am as the declaration was made, Mr Campbell started his victory speech with a tribute to an old friend and colleague.
“Before I make a few comments I want to pay tribute to a man who’s no longer with us tonight, this morning, the chairman, the past chairman of the East Londonderry Democratic Unionist Association, the President of our party, the late James McClure, who, if he had been still with us, would have been in the forefront of this battle today and this month,” he said.
Mr Campbell quickly turned his fire on the SDLP for what he regarded as dirty campaigning.
“This election was fought and for the most part, for most of the candidates, it was fought cleanly and fairly, and I thank most of the candidates for doing that.”
The new MP thanked his local team and DUP MLAs Adrian McQuillan and George Robinson for getting the vote out by knocking tens of thousands of doors across the constituency over the past month.
“I want to pay tribute to my canvass team who worked assiduously, not canvassing hundreds of doors or thousands of doors but tens of thousands of doors.
“They canvassed week on week for over six weeks and I want to thank each and every one of them.
“I want to thank my two Assembly colleagues Adrian McQuillan MLA and George Robinson MLA who have stood firmly and steadily with me, not just throughout this campaign but throughout this parliamentary term, making my job that much easier,” he said.
Mr Campbell persuaded 14,663 voters (42.2 per cent of the total vote) to place their ‘X’ against his name, up on 12,097 last time out, despite a turnout reduced from 35,086 (55.5 per cent) to 34,950 (52.24 per cent).
He accused many people, including the media, of vainly attempting to denigrate his party.
“On the figures, and I will not labour the point, many people tried to denigrate this party and this campaign, many people did their worst, many in the media did their worst but there are only a small number of criteria, which you can judge a candidate by.
“Did they get more votes than anyone? We did. Did they get a bigger majority than they did the last time? We did.
“Did they get a bigger percentage share of the vote than they did the last time? We did.
“On every count, in every category, this party is on the way up. Other people are on the way down. But we are on the way up in East Londonderry in this part of the United Kingdom.
“We thank all those voters who did what we asked them to do and voted accordingly.”
Of the other runners Sinn Féin’s Caoimhe Archibald, comfortably ensured her party came in second again, putting her in good stead for a potential run in the Assembly elections scheduled next year.
She polled 6,859, up on the 6,742 received by Cathal Ó hOisín five years ago.
Next in was Ulster Unionist candidate William McCandless who polled 5,333 for his party.
SDLP candidate Gerry Mullan received 4,268 votes; Alliance candidate Yvonne Boyle received 2,642 votes; marijuana advocate Neil Paine, of Cannabis is safer than alcohol (CISTA) received 527 votes; and Conservative candidate Elizabeth St Clair-Legge received 422 votes.