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Alliance gain seat in Strangford as former education minister loses out

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long celebrates with her newly-elected party colleague Nick Mathison (Liam McBurney/PA)
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long celebrates with her newly-elected party colleague Nick Mathison (Liam McBurney/PA)

As with many constituencies, Alliance proved to be the big winners in the traditional Unionist stronghold of Strangford – taking two of the five seats.

The party’s Kellie Armstrong became the first politician in Northern Ireland to secure a seat in the Assembly after she was elected on Friday afternoon.

It took 24 hours for party colleague Nick Mathison to take the fifth and final seat.

During her acceptance speech, Ms Armstrong congratulated Mr Mathison and said “the Alliance surge is real”, adding “Alliance is a family, Alliance is a bigger family going into the Assembly, Alliance will be back working again”.

Alliance’s gain proved to be the DUP’s loss as the latter returned two MLAs, Michelle McIlveen and Harry Harvey, one less than in the 2017 election.

DUP stalwart and former education minister Peter Weir failed to secure a seat.

He had been an MLA since 1998 when the Northern Ireland Assembly was formed following the Belfast Agreement, initially for North Down and latterly for Strangford.

In her speech, Ms McIlveen – who was elected at the second stage – paid tribute to her colleague and said: “Peter will be a real loss to the Assembly.

2022 NI Assembly election
DUP Assembly candidate Peter Weir at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

“His quick wit, intellect and ability to debate any topic, and filibuster when necessary, will be greatly missed.”

She said it had been an “immense privilege and honour” to serve the people of Strangford, and vowed to continue to do so.

Mr Harvey, of the DUP, was also elected and in his speech he thanked all those who voted for him and said “together we can and will make a difference”.

2022 NI Assembly election
UUP’s Mike Nesbitt at the Titanic Exhibition Centre (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mike Nesbitt secured his seat in Strangford for the fourth time.

The UUP politician said: “I make the same promises I made previously. I will work for everybody who voted for me, everyone who voted for other candidates and everyone who didn’t vote. I look forward to continuing that work.”

Despite predictions that the TUV could pick up a seat in Strangford, candidate Stephen Cooper failed to reach the quota and was eliminated on Saturday afternoon.

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