DUP deputy Nigel Dodds has accused Sinn Fein of waging one of the nastiest campaigns in recent memory as he emerged victorious in North Belfast.
He claimed the republican party engaged in sectarian tactics and dirty tricks in an attempt to oust him.
But he hailed the electorate for delivering the DUP its largest-ever vote in the constituency to see off the challenge of Sinn Fein veteran Gerry Kelly.
Mr Dodds’ campaign to win the seat for the fourth occasion was boosted by an electoral pact with the Ulster Unionists that saw the latter decline to run a candidate.
“This has been one of the nastiest campaigns I have been involved in,” he said. But he added: “We have proved that truth triumphs over lies.”
Mr Dodds had claimed an election leaflet circulated by Sinn Fein was sectarian and accused the party of being behind a letter sent to unionist voters making what he insisted were false claims about his record as an MP.
“We have exposed the sectarianism of Sinn Fein for what it is,” he said.
“We have also exposed the bogus nature of their so-called equality agenda.”
But Mr Kelly dismissed Mr Dodds’ allegations in his own post-election speech to supporters.
“I would like to thank Nigel Dodds for his very gracious acceptance speech,” he said sarcastically amid catcalls from DUP supporters.
“I have never heard the likes of it before. And I would also like to thank his supporters for their boos - it really makes me feel at home.”
Mr Dodds secured 19,096 votes to Mr Kelly’s 13,770.
Sinn Fein Assembly member Mr Kelly added: “I would like to thank the voters of North Belfast for giving me an increased mandate in that area.”