The DUP’s vice-like grip on North Antrim remains in place after yet another landslide victory for Ian Paisley, despite a sizeable decline in his total share of the vote.
There was a drop of more than 7,000 votes from his performance in 2017, and a decline in total percentage share from a remarkable 58.9% two years ago to 47.4%, but Mr Paisley still claimed an emphatic win.
He and his DUP supporters broke into hymn after the result was declared, while there were some testy exchanges with the media – the BBC in particular – in the media scrum that erupted afterwards.
The tense exchanges came after Mr Paisley was asked whether he was under investigation by a Parliamentary watchdog, as had been suggested by his party leader Arlene Foster during a recent episode of The View on BBC One.
After the frosty exchange in the count centre in Magherafelt, Mr Paisley told the News Letter he had been “absolutely overwhelmed” by his victory despite what he described as attempts in the “wider media” to “undermine me”.
“I am thrilledthat the electorate has endorsed me once again and I look forward to continuing to work for them and to deliver for the constituency,” he said.
“It is very important that the constituency gets things delivered for it.
“I am absolutely overwhelmed, as you can appreciate, because I think everything was done in the wider media to try and undermine me.”
He added: “The electorate of North Antrim are incredibly faithful people.”
His closest rival this time around was the former UUP leader Robin Swann, who stood down from the post earlier this year.
Mr Swann was a somewhat inconspicuous presence in the count centre in Magherafelt on Thursday night, and he politely declined an invitation for an interview with the News Letter until counting had completed.
But when the results were declared, Mr Swann was a notable absentee amongst the candidates on the platform after having increased his party’s share of the vote substantially.
In 2017, the UUP candidate Jackson Minford managed just 3,482 votes or 7.2% of the total, finishing well behind Sinn Fein’s second-placed candidate Cara McShane. But this time around, Mr Swann had increased the UUP share to 8,139 votes and 18.5% of the total.
Sinn Fein, meanwhile, dropped from second in North Antrim to fourth behind the Alliance Party’s Patricia O’Lynn, whose vote share more than doubled.