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Monday, June 14, 1999 Published at 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK

Paisley tops poll in NI

Ian Paisley makes his victory address in Belfast

Democratic Unionist leader the Reverend Ian Paisley has topped the poll for the fifth successive European Election in Northern Ireland - using his victory speech to attack the Good Friday Agreement.

His final tally of 192,762 votes was more than 2,000 ahead of SDLP standard bearer John Hume, who was hoping to top the poll - an achievement that would have crowned his Nobel Peace Prize triumph last year.

In his victory address, Mr Paisley said that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair did not have the support of the "majority of the majority".

He said: "There is a majority of unionist people who will not bow nor bend nor budge in their attitude to this agreement."

In his election address, Mr Hume stressed that he was not disappointed at failing to top the poll. He said it was the greatest vote his party ever received in any election.

[ image: Sinn Fein leaders applaud Dr Paisley after his Euro success]
Sinn Fein leaders applaud Dr Paisley after his Euro success
The other contest was the battle between Jim Nicholson of the Ulster Unionists and Sinn Fein's Mitchell McLaughlin for the third seat.

Mr Nicholson is now virtually certain to secure the final seat in Belfast as he secured the lion's share of transfers after the four bottom candidates were eliminated.

The UUP candidate gained over 40,000 transfers when the votes of David Ervine of the PUP, the UKUP's Bob McCartney, Sean Neeson of the Alliance and James Anderson, the Natural Law candidate, were re-distributed.

But Mr McLaughlin said the headline from the election should be that Sinn Fein are now a force to be reckoned with - he polled 117,643 first preference votes despite widespread speculation that the continuing search for IRA victims, known as the "disappeared", would affect his vote.

The result will cause Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble to breathe a sigh of relief.

Pro-agreement parties are also claiming a victory for the accord despite Rev Paisley's claims that his vote reflects an anti-agreement majority amongst unionist voters.

The pro-agreement tally is 430,000 votes against approximately 210,000 for the anti-agreement candidates.

Alliance Party leader Sean Neeson fared particularly badly and another big loser is UKUP candidate Bob McCartney whose tally of first preferences is likely to fall short of his 70,000 prediction.

PUP leader David Ervine is claiming victory in his personal battle with UKUP leader. The Progressive Unionist Party candidate believes he polled approximately 23,000 votes.

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