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Alliance leader tops East Belfast vote but party strengths remain the same

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long (right)with Belfast East party candidate Peter McReynolds and his wife Eileen McReynolds (left) at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast for the Northern Ireland Assembly Election. (Liam McBurney/PA)
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long (right)with Belfast East party candidate Peter McReynolds and his wife Eileen McReynolds (left) at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast for the Northern Ireland Assembly Election. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Alliance leader Naomi Long topped the poll in East Belfast where the same party strengths were returned to the Stormont benches.

Ms Long, whose party enjoyed a significant surge across Northern Ireland in the Assembly elections, described a “rollercoaster of a week”.

She dedicated her win in memory of her late father-in-law, who died recently.

2022 NI Assembly election
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland leader Naomi Long at St Colmcilles Parish Hall in East Belfast polling station (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ms Long was elected on the first stage of the count along with DUP candidate Joanne Bunting.

Her Alliance running mate Peter McReynolds was also elected to retain the party’s two Assembly seats in the constituency.

Ms Long paid tribute to Chris Lyttle, who stood aside before the election, quipping that it felt like a divorce to no longer be working together.

She also thanked the other candidates in East Belfast for a “fair and clean election campaign”.

2022 NI Assembly election
DUP’s Joanne Bunting (centre) is congratulated by supporters at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast after being returned as an MLA for the Northern Ireland Assembly (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ms Bunting thanked voters for backing her and her party colleague David Brooks who was also elected in the constituency.

“Congratulations to the MLAs Elect and commiserations to those who missed out, as Naomi has said, it was a clean campaign, it was a nice campaign and a fair campaign in East Belfast… it’s the right way to campaign,” she said.

UUP’s Andy Allen was the final MLA elected in East Belfast.

He thanked those who voted for him and his party running mate Lauren Kerr.

“Whether the issues be the cost of living, the lack of social affordable housing, poverty or other issues, us five are here to represent you. I can assure you that we will work together to the best of our ability to represent Northern Ireland and you every day in the Assembly,” he said.

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