DUP stalwart Sammy Wilson has surged ahead of his nearest rival by several thousand votes to retain his safe seat in East Antrim.
He made it back into office by with 12,103 votes, compared with 6,308 for the UUP’s Roy Beggs.
This outcome was no surprise, and in terms of the difference between the two parties it is not too dissimilar to the 2010 result, when Mr Wilson won 13,993 votes to the UUP’s 7,223.
However, one eye-opening aspect of the result was a strong Alliance vote, with the party winning 5,021 votes, compared with 3,377 in 2010 (although the general turnout was also up, from 50.9 to 53.6).
There had been a possibility that the flag protests – which saw some loyalists target their anger at the party, including invading a Carrickfergus council meeting in December 2012 to shout abuse at its councillors – could have cost it votes in what is one of the Province’s most staunchly unionist regions.
Before his speech accepting victory, Mr Wilson’s party colleagues cheered and waved a flag above his head; apparently a kind of medley of the Northern Irish flag, the Union Flag, and others.
Taking to the microphone, he said: “You know, this is my 17th election, and it never fails to humble me that many people who don’t know me, who perhaps will never even meet me, put their confidence in me to represent them and to work on their behalf.”
He also said that, due to the “electoral arithmetic” required to form a new government in Westminster this time around (with the main UK parties likely to need the backing of smaller parties from the UK’s constituent countries), Northern Ireland is expected have a stronger voice.
Speaking earlier in the night, he had told the News Letter that his ideal scenario was having either a possible Labour or Tory government which needed DUP MPs to come on-side, “because we can play the two parties off against each other” – with the result being that the DUP could demand more in exchange for its support.
And in his victory speech he pledged to negotiate the best deal possible for the Province from the London-based parties, saying: “Northern Ireland has special interests, has special needs, and those will require to be addressed.”
It was also a night to gladden the spirits of UKIP members, with its candidate Noel Jordan securing a vast surge in support from a standing start.
The party had not even existed in the East Antrim area until last April, and went on to win 3,660 votes.
Mr Jordan, a 53-year-old Carrick man who describes himself as a bricklayer by trade and a former reserve fireman, said: “We’re absolutely delighted. We went out to try and tell the electorate there is an alternative, and we believe we are that alternative.
“It’s exceeded my expectations.”
However, the TUV performed relatively poorly, with 1,903 votes for its candidate Ruth Wilson, sister of DUP MLA Paul Girvan.
She said: “I think UKIP have eaten in to our vote in Carrick. It has definitely dented the vote.
“They’re a national party, and this is a national election, so this should be their big election.”
Her campaign slogan had been ‘Enough is enough’, and she added: “I’m happy enough. I’ve met a lot of people, talked to a lot of people, engaged with a lot of people.
“Obviously enough isn’t enough, and they want a part-time MP [a reference to Mr Wilson’s double-jobbing roles as both an MP and an MLA].”
Turnout: 53.63 per cent
Sinn Fein: 2,314