Stormont's First Minister Peter Robinson unseated after year of scandal

A huge upset in Northern Ireland saw the unexpected defeat of Peter Robinson, who is both First Minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist party.

He lost the East Belfast seat he has held for more than 30 years to Naomi Long of the Alliance party, a grouping which has never won a Westminster seat but which is aligned to the Liberal Democrats.

The assumption is that Mr Robinson was fatally damaged by the accusations of sleaze which have surrounded his party and in particular himself in recent months. His perceived closeness to property developers evidently cost him many votes, as his 6,000 majority evaporated.

Other DUP candidates by contrast did not experience such punishment at the hands of the voters, suggesting their leader had suffered for personal rather than political reasons.

For example, the DUP comfortably held the Strangford seat vacated by Mr Robinson's wife Iris, who withdrew from public life following sexual revelations.

Ian Paisley Junior won the North Antrim seat which had been held by his father, former DUP leader the Rev Ian Paisley, for forty years. His victory was celebrated, as it traditional in Paisley territory, with a rendering of the hymn "Oh God from whom all blessings flow."

However, the DUP vote fell in a number of other areas.



A recount was called in traditionally hard-fought Fermanagh-South Tyrone after a unionist candidate was just six votes ahead of Sinn Fein.



On Wednesday night Mr Robinson triumphantly produced a letter from Gordon Brown which acceded to his demand that the financial block grant transferred from London to Belfast would not, as threatened, be cut in the present financial year.



This showed, he said, that the DUP was destined to enjoy enhanced influence at Westminster.



Mr Robinson's parliamentary downfall has both Westminster and local implications. He had been looking forward eagerly to heading a DUP phalanx to negotiate with the Tories or Labour in the event of a hung parliament.



Instead DUP representation at Westminister will be at a maximum of eight seats. The party will nonetheless remain highly interested in any approaches form either the Conservtives or Labour.



In Belfast politics, meanwhile, the question is whether Mr Robinson, who is effectively Northern Ireland's prime minister in tandem with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, will remain in office locally.



Mr Robinson has been a mainstay of the peace process but the financial clouds surrounding him have clearly caused some damage. He, or his party, may feel that the time has come for a new leader since the loss of his seat will certainly reduce his authority.



Anti-Assembly elements did not poll well, with Mr Paisley Jr scoring a very comfortable victory over Jim Allister of the Traditional Unionist Voice, which opposes the peace process.



The menace of more militant anti-political elements was all too visible early this morning when counting in Londonderry was suspended due to a bomb alert. Votes from the Foyle and East Londonderry constituencies were being counted at a local sports centre when a hijacked car was abandoned nearby.



Army bomb experts ordered an evacuation of the premises while they carried out a controlled explosion on the vehicle. Counting was resumed after a disruption which lasted more than an hour. The incident was condemned by a wide range of politicians, who described it as an attack on democracy.



Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams comfortably held his West Belfast seat with a 17,000 majority, signalling that recent allegations of involvement in 1970s murders had no significant effect on his support.



The overall Sinn Fein performance confirmed the party's status as the major party of Northern Ireland nationalism while the DUP, though somewhat more bruised and battered, are still the leaders of loyalism.



The Ulster Unionists, by contrast, which had hoped for a boost from its link-up with the Conservatives, ended with no seats, shattering the Cameron hope of building a "new force" in Northern Ireland politics.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Network Support Engineer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Network Support Engineer is r...

Recruitment Genius: Account Director - Tech Startup - Direct Your Own Career Path

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Sales Advisor - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telephone Sales Advisor is re...

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker - OTE £20,000

£14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An office based Appointment Mak...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent