Sinn Fein’s Francie Molloy, who retained his seat in Mid Ulster in emphatic fashion, took a swipe at former Mid Ulster DUP MP William McCrea during his acceptance speech.
But his comments did not go unnoticed by Rev McCrea’s son Ian, who finished in third place in the Mid Ulster election race.
After rapturous applause from party colleagues and election workers, Mr Molloy – who first won the seat in a by-election three years ago when Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister at the Assembly stood down – said he wanted to “thank the young people across Mid Ulster who turned out in their numbers to ensure a strong mandate for Sinn Fein”.
He said the Mid Ulster constituency “changed dramatically when Martin McGuinness first defeated Willie McCrea”.
He added: “I understand that Willie is on the run again with the other constituency [South Antrim] having said it is time to move on.”
In response, DUP MLA Ian McCrea said that “whilst my dad might have lost his seat, at least he had the decency to take his seat”.
Addressing Mr Molloy he said he should “take his seat and represent the people he has been elected to represent”.
Mr McCrea said: “Any lessons that need to be learned from this election the DUP will not shy away from.”
Meanwhile, a similarly exhausted and emotional UUP candidate Sandra Overend thanked the “more than 6,000 voters who voted for the Ulster Unionist party in Mid Ulster” which she said had “increased our vote by 15 per cent in Mid Ulster”.
She said her finishing in second place in the Westminster election was “an endorsement of the work I have done as MLA for the Assembly”.
She further congratulated fellow UUP candidate in South Antrim Danny Kinahan for winning his seat from Willie McCrea, adding that “the Ulster Unionist party is back”.
Mr Molloy, 64, a member of the Assembly since 1998, the year of the signing of the Good Friday peace agreement, and who at one stage was a deputy Speaker, polled almost 20,000 votes – more than 13,500 ahead of Ms Overend.
Supporters cheered wildly as he was declared the winner and he said afterwards his campaign was about equality.
Mr Molloy said: “Some people find it very hard to understand that. Some parties do not accept equality, but equality is what the future is about. Equality endangers no one, but is good for everyone. Tory cuts to the most vulnerable in our society will deliver nothing, except further hardship.”
SDLP candidate Malachy Quinn said he was “very happy with his result” and thanked everyone involved in the campaign.
He said it was “onwards and upwards from here for the SDLP” adding the party “has had a fantastic night with gains all over the place in the election”.
• Francie Molloy (SF): 19,935
• Sandra Overend (UUP): 6,318
• Ian McCrea (DUP): 5,465
• Malachy Quinn (SDLP): 5,055
• Gareth Ferguson (TUV): 1,892
• Lucille Nicholson (Northern Ireland Conservative Party): 120
• Eric Bullick (Alliance): 778
• Alan Day (Ukip): 863
• Hugh Scullion (Workers Party): 496
Eligible electorate: 67,832
Votes polled: 41,317