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  1. ITV Report

DUP loses ‘kingmaker’ role and Westminster leader Dodds

It was a tough night from the get-go for the DUP, after an exit poll predicted a huge majority for the Conservatives – costing them their influential role as so-called “kingmakers”.

Arlene Foster’s party had found themselves in a position of power when they were able to prop the previous Tory minority government up through their confidence and supply agreement.

However, with that off the table as Boris Johnson’s Brexit election gamble paid off in spades, the DUP were left contesting key battlegrounds and finding themselves losing votes.

62.09%
Voter turnout for Northern Ireland (803,367 votes polled)

Belfast North has never fallen out of unionist hands, with the seat held by senior party figure Nigel Dodds since 2001.

But the DUP deputy leader ultimately lost out to Sinn Féin’s relative newcomer John Finucane.

Returned Sinn Féin MPs Paul Maskey and John Finucane, with vice president Michelle O'Neill and president Mary Lou McDonald. Credit: Presseye

The son of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, John Finucane is himself a solicitor who only formally entered politics in 2017.

As a Sinn Féin councillor, he quickly rose through the ranks and was put forward as Lord Mayor of Belfast in May of this year.

He polled 23,078 votes to secure the MP role, ahead of Mr Dodds’ 21,135 votes and the Alliance Party’s Nuala McAllister on 4,824 votes.

That Remain voice that was heard in 2016 was amplified beyond recognition again tonight.

– John Finucane, Sinn Féin MP

“On a night like tonight, when it is all still very surreal, I can’t help but think of my father and where we have come from, not just as a family, but as a society as well,” Mr Finucane said.

Mr Finucane added: “As I said coming into the centre tonight – and I hope Paul Maskey (returned Belfast West MP) forgives me – north Belfast is easily the best part of Belfast.

“I was born there, I raised my kids there, I live there now – I’m very, very proud to be from north Belfast and I think that this election is about the future of north Belfast.”

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Mr Dodds congratulated his opponent, but added that he was disappointed the area would be without a voice at Westminster – a nod to Sinn Féin’s policy of abstentionism.

"I do regret that north Belfast will be left unrepresented in the House of Commons and at a very challenging time," he said.

"I think that one of the messages of this election is that people want to have their voice heard in Westminster."

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The result marks another blow for the DUP, with the party facing being less able to affect change when it comes to any Brexit deal and its potential impact on Northern Ireland.

Sammy Wilson, who held his seat as MP for East Antrim, said: “Obviously we’d have preferred to be in a situation we were in the last parliament where we did have the influence and where it was fairly marginal.

“However, for the country, it probably wasn’t a great thing because no decisions could be made.”

He added: “I still wouldn’t be totally dismayed, insofar as a big majority could actually mean that Boris Johnson can go in and be fairly bullish with the EU when it comes to negotiations.

“And if he does do that, then many of the problems the current deal is going to cause Northern Ireland could disappear.”

The DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly lost her seat in Belfast South to the SDLP's Claire Hanna. Credit: Presseye

The DUP also lost its seat in South Belfast, where the SDLP’s Claire Hanna swept to victory by a significant margin.

She secured 27,079 votes, compared to 11,678 for the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly.

Following her election win, Claire Hanna spoke about the need to restore a devolved Assembly as soon as possible, and said that talks should begin.

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The DUP also failed to take the North Down seat vacated by Independent Lady Sylvia Hermon, who took the decision not to stand for re-election.

Alex Easton lost out to Alliance’s Stephen Farry, on what was a good night for Naomi Long’s party.

While she was unable to unseat the DUP’s Gavin Robinson in Belfast East, she significantly reduced his majority.

Alliance polling well across Northern Ireland may not have secured them too many MP seats, but it could make for an interesting Assembly election down the line.

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long, with elected North Down MP Stephen Farry. Credit: Presseye

Last time around, the DUP returned 10 of Northern Ireland’s 18 MPs – this time, they have eight, including the likes of Ian Paisley in North Antrim, Gregory Campbell in East Londonderry and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in Lagan Valley.

Sinn Féin have seven MPs returned, the SDLP two and Alliance one.

NORTHERN IRELAND RESULTS

  • North Down – Stephen Farry (Alliance)
  • Strangford – Jim Shannon (DUP)
  • West Tyrone – Órfhlaith Begley (Sinn Féin)
  • Belfast West – Paul Maskey (Sinn Féin)
  • Belfast North – John Finucane (Sinn Féin)
  • Mid Ulster – Francie Molloy (Sinn Féin)
  • East Londonderry – Gregory Campbell (DUP)
  • Belfast East – Gavin Robinson (DUP)
  • South Antrim – Paul Girvan (DUP)
  • Belfast South – Claire Hanna (SDLP)
  • East Antrim – Sammy Wilson (DUP)
  • Foyle – Colum Eastwood (SDLP)
  • Lagan Valley - Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP)
  • North Antrim – Ian Paisley (DUP)
  • Upper Bann – Carla Lockhart (DUP)
  • South Down – Chris Hazzard (Sinn Féin)
  • Newry & Armagh – Mickey Brady (Sinn Féin)
  • Fermanagh & South Tyrone - Michelle Gildernew (Sinn Féin)