Ulster Unionists under pressure

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Indy Politics

The Ulster Unionist Party battled to avoid electoral humiliation today. Senior members, including the deputy leader John McCallister (south Down) faced the prospect of having to wait until the closing stages of the counting process before retaining their seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Michael McGimpsey (south Belfast) and David McNarry (Strangford) were also under pressure.

Party officials believe those three might squeeze in - but failure will mean serious questions about the future leadership of Tom Elliott.

With the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein, and possibly the non-sectarian Alliance Party set to make a triumphant return to Stormont, the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) suffered a major casualty with the loss of outgoing MLA Tommy Burns (south Antrim).

Tommy Gallagher (Fermanagh-south Tyrone) and Conall McDevitt (south Belfast) was also under pressure.

After the shambolic counting process yesterday which infuriated all sides, there was further controversy in Omagh, Co.Tyrone today after the deputy returning officer Martin Fox agreed to a total re-count in the west Tyrone constituency after the DUP protested over 10 missing votes.

They also claimed that several ballot papers which they alleged were spoiled were allow to be counted.

Two of the candidates, Barry McElduff and Pat Doherty (Sinn Fein) had been deemed elected, but with four more places still be filled, Mr Fox granted a request for a recount of the first stage in the proportional representation process, even though last night he announced stage two - the redistribution of McElduff's surplus - would go ahead.