While the Ulster Unionists are experiencing a difficult election day, former leader Robin Swann bucked the trend when he topped the poll in north Antrim.
Mr Swann was Northern Ireland’s health minister throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
He won plaudits from many for his stewardship of the crisis-hit health service while it was ravaged by the pandemic.
Speaking after he was elected on the first count, Mr Swann said: “A lot of the votes that I got in this election have been a testimony to the delivery of the health service over the past two years.
“This is a victory for the UUP, it is about the team that we have had out over the past six weeks.
“We engaged with people and we saw the challenges.”
It shows that a positive brand of unionism is alive and we will continue to push our message
Another Ulster Unionist success was the election of the party’s deputy leader Robbie Butler in the second count in Lagan Valley.
Mr Butler said: “I am absolutely delighted with the result, I have increased my first preference result and also got a few transfers.
“It shows that a positive brand of unionism is alive and we will continue to push our message.
“There is a long way to go yet.
“With the STV election there are a lot of transfers to be won.
“I think on Monday morning we will still be in a good position, not perhaps in the position that we wanted to be, but we will still be in a good position and will play our part in negotiations for a programme for government.”
Early poll results showed that a number of Ulster Unionist candidates were struggling. Veteran MLA Roy Beggs was eliminated in the East Antrim constituency.
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