There were no surprises at the Lagan Valley count as Sir Jeffrey Donaldson comfortably retained the Westminster seat he’s held for the past 20 years.
Going into this election with a huge majority of 13,000, Mr Donaldson was odds-on favourite to be returned to the House of Commons, with the general feeling that Ulster Unionist candidate Robbie Butler was likely to be his only serious challenger.
As it turned out, Mr Donaldson retained the seat with a massively increased majority of more than 19,000, having secured almost 60 per cent of the total vote.
During his acceptance speech, he praised ‘Team DUP’ in Lagan Valley for their hard work during the campaign and stressed that he is committed to working on behalf of everyone in the constituency.
“It is a great honour to be returned again as MP for Lagan Valley, and returned with my largest ever vote and largest ever majority,” the DUP man said.
Mr Donaldson believes the increased turnout figure in Lagan Valley (62 per cent - up six per cent from 2015) is a direct reaction to the loss of a unionist seat in March’s Assembly election.
On that occasion the SDLP’s Pat Catney upset the odds to take the final Stormont seat in the constituency at the expense of the DUP’s Brenda Hale.
“On the doorsteps it was clear to me that the result of the Assembly election was weighing heavily on the minds of many voters in Lagan Valley - the impact of Sinn Fein coming so close to being the largest party, but also the loss of that unionist seat in Lagan Valley - and I think there was a quiet determination on the part of unionist voters to come out this time in greater numbers than they did at the last general election and they have united behind the DUP and given us a very strong vote,” he said.
The result in full was:
Robbie Butler, UUP - 7,533
Pat Catney, SDLP - 3,384
Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP - 26,762
Aaron McIntyre, Alliance - 4,996
Ian Nickels, Conservative - 462
Jonny Orr, Independent - 222
Jacqui Russell, Sinn Fein - 1,567