Strangford: Emotional Shannon remembers late father

Jim Shannon said he was 'immensely privileged and immensely humbled' to be re-elected
Jim Shannon said he was 'immensely privileged and immensely humbled' to be re-elected

If solid constituency work and years of service can pay off, then DUP veteran Jim Shannon was proof on Friday morning as he gave an emotional speech to acknowledge his return to Westminster for a second term by the people of Strangford.

The normally ebullient figure also paid tribute to his father who died 10 weeks ago, and he was forced to pause to collect his thoughts as he talked of contesting his first election without him.

The result was no less important for the fact that by the end of this term the DUP will have held Strangford for as long as it ‘belonged’ to Ulster Unionist grandee John Taylor.

This time the UUP’s candidate Robert Burgess, despite many years experience as a Down District councillor, trailed the eventual winner by a full 10,185 votes, polling just 4,868 and chased, and at one stage tipped to be beaten, by Alliance candidate Kellie Armstrong.

Her vote surged in the early stages, prompting whispers that the UUP might be knocked into third place, but she finished with 4,687 votes – delighted all the same.

Looking forward to the Assembly elections next year, she said the result presented the party with a superb platform on which to base its campaign.

“To be honest, where we have ended up is fantastic because we have gone up from 8.9 per cent to 13.7 per cent.

“Those figures almost reflect what Kieran McCarthy got in the last Assembly elections and shows that that vote has held.

“That bodes very well for next year and so we are delighted. Absolutely delighted.”

Perhaps one unexpected feature of the poll was the performance of Ukip candidate, businessman Joe Jordan, who polled 2,237 votes.

That put him not only ahead of the Conservative candidate, the well-known Johnny Andrews who polled 2,167, but just under 100 votes shy of the SDLP’s Joe Boyle who polled 2,335, failing to better his own 2005 performance.

If the TUV had high hopes of attracting a high percentage of unionist voters unimpressed at the DUP, that failed to materialise as their candidate Stephen Cooper took just 1,701 votes.

That just left Sinn Fein candidate Sheila Bailie who came bottom of the poll with 876 votes.

Speaking after the declaration Mr Shannon expressed his relief at retaining the seat.

“I feel immensely privileged and immensely humbled to be elected again as a Member of Parliament for Strangford and my commitment is emphatic and wholehearted,” he said.

“I love helping people and that’s what it’s about for me.

“For the last 30 years as a councillor, an MLA and now as a Member of Parliament for the second term, I will pledge myself to continue to work for them as I did in the past.

“I look forward to tomorrow morning and, at 9.15 tomorrow morning, Jim Shannon will be in his office ready for business.”