Unionists boo SF in South Antrim as trio of DUP candidates clinch victory

Declan Kearney, elected for South Antrim, was booed during his winning speech
Declan Kearney, elected for South Antrim, was booed during his winning speech

There were boos and cheers during the acceptance speeches in South Antrim on Friday night, with unionists in vocal form as all three DUP candidates clinched a seat.

Paul Girvan was the first to seize one, soaring above his colleagues and rivals early in the day.

David Ford

David Ford

Sporting a blue suit, which has become something of a trademark for him, he beamed that he was “extremely happy” – although, despite his strong performance, he had to rely on transfer votes from the second count to take him across the line, having missed the quota of 5,020 first-preference votes by a mere six.

Pam Cameron then followed him into a seat.

Her position had been thought to be weaker than some of her colleagues, but when counting got under way it was plain she had polled strongly.

“Two months with not much sleep,” she said afterwards.

Pam Cameron at the Valley Leisure Centre, Newtownabbey

Pam Cameron at the Valley Leisure Centre, Newtownabbey

“It has been tense.”

She said she was looking forward to working under Arlene Foster again, whom she described as “a breath of fresh air” who had given the party “a lift”.

It took until late in the evening before Trevor Clarke was officially announced as the third successful DUP candidate.

The UUP’s Stephen Aiken was also among the last whose win was announced.

Paul Girvan of the DUP tops the polls in South Antrim

Paul Girvan of the DUP tops the polls in South Antrim

Sinn Fein’s Declan Kearney also took a seat.

The day had got off to a bad start for the Alliance Party leader David Ford.

He got a relatively poor crop of first preference votes – just over 3,100, over 1,000 less than when he was elected in 2011. By the second count, he was languishing in seventh place.

However, a mass of transfer votes took him comfortably into a seat by the evening.

Gone: Adrian Cochrane-Watson

Gone: Adrian Cochrane-Watson

His win makes it the fifth time he has secured a seat here.

He would not be drawn on whether this would be his last election, dubbing that “a bizarre question”.

See him questioned about performance here.

One major upset of the day was that UUP man Adrian Cochrane-Watson – who was appointed to replace Danny Kinahan last year when he won a Westminster seat.

He polled poorly, far behind his running mates.

When the time came for the winners to take to the podium and deliver their speeches, young DUP supporters burst into cheers and unfurled a Union Flag when the results were announced.

Sinn Fein’s Mr Kearney encountered a loud swell of boos when he mentioned a mandate for a united Ireland in his acceptance speech.

By contrast, Mr Clarke was met with a wave of cheers when he told backers that his party was determined to remain part of the UK.

In an apparent swipe at the UUP, which had been hoping for three seats, he said: “I heard they were on a resurgence last year.

“I don’t know what happened, but it didn’t work very well for them today.”

The turnout this year is 51.01 per cent – which, by remarkable coincidence, is identical to that of East Antrim.

That is slightly up on 2011 (50.07 per cent) but notably down on 2007 (58.61 per cent) and 2003 (59.49 per cent).

2011 results:

Mitchel McLaughlin (SF)

Danny Kinahan (UUP)

Paul Girvan (DUP)

Trevor Clarke (DUP)

Pam Cameron (DUP)

David Ford (Alliance)