Donaldson wants Stormont return

The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson(centre) is returned as MP for Lagan Valley.    Photo by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye.
The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson(centre) is returned as MP for Lagan Valley. Photo by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye.

In an unsurprising victory, the DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was comfortably returned as an MP for the Lagan Valley constituency.

Mr Donaldson received 19,586 votes in a seat he had held since 1997, with a majority of 6,499 over nearest challenger, Sorcha Eastwood of Alliance.

He said the electorate had delivered a clear message during the campaign – that they want Stormont restored.

“I think the people of Northern Ireland are giving us a very clear message, to all the political parties, that they want us to get back around the table and agree to restore our devolved government and get Stormont working again,” he said.

“And we recognise that and on Monday when the parties convene, my party will be there to take their place and work with the others to try to find agreement.

“It would be the best Christmas present for the people of Northern Ireland if we can deliver that agreement and get Stormont restored, we desperately need it, the people want it and they demand it and we must deliver it.”

Mr Donaldson commiserated with DUP colleagues who lost their seats but said that, while the party had “suffered some reversals”, it remained the largest in Northern Ireland, in terms of seats and vote share.

He also warned that Boris Johnston must listen to the people of Northern Ireland when they share concerns about his Brexit deal.

The Alliance Party saw a surge, with its candidate, Sorcha Eastwood, polling 13,000 votes – up from 5,000 in 2017 – but it was not enough to unseat Mr Donaldson.

Ms Eastwood said the party ran a progressive campaign that was strongly endorsed by the people of Lagan Valley and it wants to build on the surge in the future.

“I am extremely delighted people got behind us and endorsed us resoundingly,” she said.

“We have set down a marker for our intentions. The constituency is changing and the message voters sent shows us that. It also shows us they want Alliance MLAs or an Alliance MP in the future. It’s up to us to listen to them and put in the groundwork going forward.”

Ms Eastwood credited Alliance’s “positive campaign” across all constituencies for the party’s surge in votes in Lagan Valley. “Voters got behind that positivity and we took an awful lot of votes from all the parties,” she said.
“We took votes from first time voters and people who traditionally are non-voters.”

When Sinn Fein candidate Gary McCleave spoke of the possibility of a united Ireland, there were heckles of “You’re living in dreamland” and “Never, never, never” from some unionist supporters present.