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The BBC's Denis Murray
"A new and unexpeted political landscape"
 real 56k

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble:
"We have weathered the storm and increased our share of the vote"
 real 28k

Former UUP MP Ken Maginnis
"There's a huge difficulty for the middle ground"
 real 56k

Saturday, 9 June, 2001, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
'We're still strong' - Trimble
David Trimble was jostled by DUP supporters as he left the count centre
David Trimble was jostled by DUP supporters
Northern Ireland First Minister and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has said his party has "weathered the storm" of the general election, despite losing three seats to the anti-Agreement DUP.

Both the DUP and Sinn Fein won a record number of seats at Westminster.

The DUP took five seats, gaining three new seats from the Ulster Unionist party in Strangford, East Londonderry and North Belfast.

Sinn Fein doubled their number of seats, from two to four, while the SDLP retained their three seats.

NI seats
UUP six seats
DUP five seats
Sinn Fein four seats
SDLP three seats

The Ulster Unionists still have the largest number of seats - six - and their total number of votes was higher than any other party.

Sylvia Hermon managed to win back North Down from anti-Agreement UK Unionist Robert McCartney and David Burnside won back South Antrim from the DUP.

But the UUP's losses to the DUP were compounded by losing Fermanagh South Tyrone to Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew and West Tyrone to the party's Pat Doherty.

Jostled by DUP supporters

David Trimble narrowly took his own constituency, Upper Bann, but was only about 2,000 votes ahead of the DUP, despite being 15,000 votes ahead in 1997.

Mr Trimble also had to endure a recount.

DUP's Irish Robinson took former safe UUP Strangford seat
DUP's Irish Robinson took former safe UUP Strangford seat
He was shouted down through his acceptance speech by DUP opponents and he and his wife were violently jostled as they left the Banbridge counting centre, despite their police escort.

In the incident three police officers and three people suffered crush injuries, and a woman was treated in hospital after being bitten by a police dog.

However, Mr Trimble said he remained optimistic.

"In very difficult circumstances with a very vicious, dishonest, negative, campaign fought against us, we have come through," he told the BBC.

'We can be proud'

"We have weathered the storm, increased our share of the vote, won a couple of very important successes.

"I think the party has a lot to be proud of when you consider what was thrown at us, literally and metaphorically I think this party has done a good job."

He added: "The Agreement changed the political landscape completely - that is indisputable.

"In the assembly election that followed, the Ulster Unionist Party got 21.7% of the vote. On this occasion we increased that to 26.8%."

DUP jubilant

The DUP was triumphant about its wins. Iris Robinson took Strangford, which had been held by UUP deputy leader John Taylor for 18 years. He retired at the election.

Gregory Campbell: New MP for East Londonderry

Gregory Campbell took East Londonderry and Nigel Dodds of the DUP captured the North Belfast seat with a landslide majority from the UUP's Cecil Walker.

Mr Dodds said it was a victory for those who didn't want "gunmen in government".

The DUP leader Ian Paisley went further: "Nigel Dodds whipped them, whipped them, whipped them," he said of the UUP.

He took his own seat in North Antrim with an increase in his majority of about 3,000.

SDLP vote collapses

Meanwhile, on the nationalist side Sinn Fein overtook the more moderate SDLP as the bigger party, both in share of vote and in the number of seats.

Pat Doherty: New Sinn Fein MP
The party won the West Tyrone and Fermanagh seats from the UUP with Pat Doherty and Michelle Gildernew.

Sinn Fein now has four seats to the SDLP's three.

SDLP chairman Mark Durkan admitted it was a disappointing day for his party.

Talks plan

The results seem likely to make agreement between Northern Ireland's two communities even more difficult.

John Reid:
John Reid: "Parties must redouble efforts"
Most of the gains were made by the DUP and Sinn Fein, the parties furthest away from the centre ground, while the SDLP and UUP, felt the biggest losses.

However, Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid said the result sent a message to all the province's politicians to ensure the Agreement was fully implemented.

Speaking at Hillsborough Castle on Saturday morning, Dr Reid said he would contact all the parties to arrange a fresh political talks on the issues of paramilitary arms, policing and demilitarisation.

He said voters had "overwhelming" backed the Agreement.

"But there is obviously concern and discontent that aspects of the agreement are not being implemented.

"As politicians who have a deep interest in Northern Ireland, we all have to redouble our efforts to make sure there is swift progress."


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