Givan on top as DUP lose seat and SDLP gain

Early indications in this DUP stronghold were that high-profile DUP candidates Paul Givan and Edwin Poots had polled well, but it was former Communties minister Mr Givan who comfortably topped the poll with Pat Catney a surprise gain for SDLP.

Lisburn Leisureplex - election count. Paul Givan elected - (L-R) Edwin Poots, Paul Givan, Uel Mackin and Alan Givan. Photograph: Declan Roughan

Mr Givan polled 8,035 (17.8%) first preference votes this time around which was an improvement on his 5,364 (13.8%) in 2016.

He was almost 1,200 clear of nearest challenger, Robbie Butler of the UUP on 6,846.

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“This was an election that we didn’t want, but we had to go out and fight in the middle of winter. There was many an evening when the rain was lashing, the wind was howling but we had to get out there,” Mr Givan said.

He claimed that while the botched RHI scheme was an issue for voters, Mike Nesbitt’s comments around transferring his next preference vote to the SDLP had a greater impact.

“People could see that Sinn Fein called this election to damage unionism, to exploit the opportunities that RHI presented and Mike Nesbitt played into all of that by calling on Arlene [Foster] to resign and Sinn Fein seized on that. They knew this was an opportunity for them to try and resolve issues in their own constituencies,” he added.

Trevor Lunn of Alliance increased his first preference vote significantly polling 6105 (13.5%) compared to 3,707 (9.5%) in 2016.

Approaching 10pm the expected announcement came that Trevor Lunn of Alliance and Robbie Butler had been elected on the seventh count, leaving Edwin Poots to wait a little longer before having his own return to Stormont confirmed.

The only real uncertainty after 10pm was who between Brenda Hale of the DUP and Pat Catney would take the final seat, with Catney eventually coming out on top.

Speaking after his election was confirmed, Robbie Butler said he was “thrilled” with the overall number of UUP votes in Lagan Valley, but was bitterly disappointed that Jenny Palmer was not returned.

“The people of Lagan Valley understood my message of hope not fear, with the vision of working together and respecting each other’s differences,” he added.