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First non-unionist to win Lagan Valley says ‘change is possible’

Sorcha Eastwood has won the Lagan Valley constituency (Oliver McVeigh/PA)
Sorcha Eastwood has won the Lagan Valley constituency (Oliver McVeigh/PA)

Sorcha Eastwood said she has shown that change is possible as she became the first non-unionist to win the Lagan Valley seat.

The constituency has long been considered a unionist stronghold and was held by former DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson for 27 years.

However, after Donaldson was charged with historical sex offences, which he denies, the cross-community Alliance Party viewed the seat as one of its main targets in the election.

In the end Ms Eastwood triumphed by almost 3,000 votes over the DUP’s Jonathan Buckley. She polled 18,618 votes to his 15,659.

General Election 2024
Jonathan Buckley blamed divisions within unionism for his defeat (Oliver McVeigh/PA)

Moments after it became clear that Ms Eastwood would win the seat, there was a touching moment. As she received congratulations, she received a phone call from her husband Dale, who is battling a rare form of blood cancer.

In the middle of a media scrum, the new Lagan Valley MP was heard to say: “Yes, it’s true babe.”

Ms Eastwood admitted to being emotional in the wake of her victory.

She said: “This means so much to me.

“Not just me personally, the people of Lagan Valley from all different walks of life – people who are unionist, people who are nationalist, people who are like me and are neither of those things.

“People who hold dear who it is that we are in Lagan Valley, and that is a positive, progressive, vibrant constituency.

“I have spent my whole life growing up in Lagan Valley and if you had ever said that I would be standing here as your MP I wouldn’t have believed you.

“But we have shown that change is possible and change can happen.”

She added: “I’m a Lagan Valley girl born and bred, and this has been in our heart for a long time and I’m just delighted.”

Mr Buckley blamed his defeat on divisions within unionism and predicted the DUP would retake the seat.

He said: “For Lagan Valley, there is brighter days ahead, I can assure you for unionism.

“But it must deal with its internal divisions.

“We must spend less time throwing rocks at each other and looking to the broad picture of unionism to make Northern Ireland work.”

The Ulster Unionist Party’s Robbie Butler had promised to make the contest a three-horse race but trailed in well behind on 11,157 votes and left the Craigavon counting centre before the final result was announced.