North Antrim: Paisley dynasty sails towards 50th year

Ian Paisley celebrates his re-election in North Antrim
Ian Paisley celebrates his re-election in North Antrim

Ian Paisley, who retained his North Antrim seat with a thumping majority, said he has dedicated the win to his mother, Eileen.

As he was rallied by supporters at Ballymena’s Seven Towers Leisure Centre in the early hours of Friday, Mr Paisley said he was dedicating the success to his mother and wife Fiona.

He said his mother had come through a “difficult” time following the death of her husband last year.

Mr Paisley also called for a national day of prayer throughout the UK on Sunday.

Mr Paisley’s father, the Rev Ian Paisley, former leader of the DUP, held the seat for 40 years until his retirement in 2010.

Even before the result was declared in Ballymena supporters cheered him and his wife Fiona into the counting centre. So his majority over his nearest rival – TUV candidate Timothy Gaston by almost 11,500 votes – came as no surprise and secured the Westminster seat his late father held for decades.

It was the first election where the physical presence of the ‘big man’ was missing but his political, and spiritual, legacy was still very much in evidence as the party faithful followed North Antrim DUP tradition with singing shortly after the victory announcement was made.

Speaking to the News Letter after his win with 43.2 per cent of the vote, Mr Paisley conceded that he “missed” his father’s presence during the election campaign.

“Obviously I miss dad, but I have run campaigns with him and for him and it was great to have him at my side. I miss him but it was a well fought campaign.”

He added that it was “nice that I am going to take the Paisley name 50 years into Parliament”.

Although the DUP will not now be involved in coalition talks at Westminster following a Conservative overall majority, Mr Paisley added: “This is big boy, grown-up, sensible politics.

“People need to have leadership at this time and seek guidance and that’s why it would be a good idea for church and political leaders to lead a national day of prayer this weekend.”

Meanwhile, Mr Gaston – who polled in second place taking 15.7 per cent of the vote – said he was pleased “with a very credible result here in North Antrim as a first time candidate at the age of 26”.

“We have built a solid base here in North Antrim building on the solid work Jim Allister has done,” he added.

“Five years ago Jim got 7,000. The turnout is slightly down so I did not get far off what Jim got the last time and I am happy enough and it is all about building for next year and the road to Stormont 2016. And I believe between now and next year we will be able to build on it.”

Meanwhile, UUP candidate Robin Swann – who polled 12.1 per cent of the vote – said he was “very happy that the UUP was the only unionist party in North Antrim to show an increase of 1.2 per cent whereas the DUP and TUV were both down”.

“Although it was predicted the UUP would be squeezed we have shown an increase and were only around 80 votes off being in third place.”

RESULT

Ian R.K. Paisley (DUP): 18,107

Timothy Gaston (TUV): 6.561

Daithi McKay (Sinn Fein): 5,143

Robin Swann (UUP): 5,054

Declan O’Loan (SDLP): 2,925

Jayne Dunlop (Alliance): 2,351

Robert Hill (Ukip): 1,341

Carol Freeman (Conservatives): 368

Thomas Stephen Palmer (Independent): 57

Eligible electorate: 75,876

Votes polled: 42,116

Turnout: 55.51 pc