‘Family time’ for MLA after marathon count

Gary Middleton in Foyle was the last of the 90 NI Assembly seats to be confirmed after a marathon count that entered a third day early yesterday morning.

The DUP representative returns to Stormont for another term, but he was pushed right to the wire by Ulster Unionist Ryan McCready who made full use of social media in the run up to polling day.

With the fourth of the five seats going to Sinead McLaughlin of the SDLP, all eyes were on the distribution of the surplus votes and the two-way battle for the final seat.

When the last votes were counted, Mr Middleton was only 95 votes ahead of his UUP rival.

Gary Middleton at the count centre with DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and supporters

Speaking to the Derry Journal at the count centre, just before the official declaration of his success, Mr Middleton said: “We want to get back to stability in Northern Ireland and, if I am elected by the people, then I will work on behalf of them at Stormont.”

Asked for his thoughts on how the unionist votes were split across three main parties, he said: “Unionism is split. Various candidates are entitled to stand for election and we were concerned that, potentially, the split could have meant that unionism didn’t get the seat.

“Thankfully it turned out that unionism did, so we welcome the fact that we won it.”

Yesterday he tweeted: “Elected! Humbled and honoured to have secured a seat to represent Foyle. Thank you to each and every person who cast their vote and for the many messages of prayer and engagement over the past few weeks.

“Looking forward to some family time today.”

Mr McCready mounted the strongest challenge for a seat from the UUP in many years.

Afterwards, he tweeted: “Close, but no cigar. Doubled the vote and pushed it to the wire; 95 votes in it!”