By Patricia Devlin
UNIONIST Unity candidate Nigel Lutton said he did not expect the success he achieved at the Mid-Ulster polls.
The DUP and UUP agreed candidate, who lost out on the Westminster seat to Sinn Fein’s Francie Molloy, pulled in 32 per cent of the vote (12,781) at the March 7 by-election.
The result is an increase of two per cent on the combined unionist vote from the last round of elections when the DUP, UUP and TUV all ran separate candidates.
Speaking to the Mid-Ulster Mail following the count, Mr Lutton hailed the unionist vote a “success”
“I am very humbled, I wasn’t expecting that,” he said.
“I maintained the unionist vote with a poor turnout what else can you ask for?”
The overall voter turnout in the by-election was 55% - down from 63% in the last general election.
Mr Lutton, an undertaker and victims campaigner, described the experience of running as the agreed unionist candidate as “surreal” but said he enjoyed the process and meeting the electorate.
He added that he feared he might be “devoured” on the doorsteps of Mid-Ulster, but, he said, the response from voters was “scaringly good”.
Before the results vote was officially announced he told the MAIL that no-matter what happens he still had two funerals to oversee tomorrow.
He later joked: “The press are hounding me but I still have to look after the dead!”
Mr Lutton said the campaign had been very intense combined with his full-time job, and his victims work.
He added that a lung complaint he suffered from had been “playing up” during his time on the campaign and said he had “lost half a stone” since canvassing started.
Touching upon criticism he received from not appearing on a live televised debate with the other candidates which Francie Molloy also abstained from, Mr Lutton said he just didn’t have the time.
“I thought it was more important to get out on the doorsteps,” he said.
Sinn Fein’s Francie Molloy was announced as the constituency’s new Member of Parliament (MP) shortly after 1am after taking 46.93 per cent of the vote (17,462).
The SDLP’s Patsy McGlone polled 6,478 - an increase of 650 since the last round of elections.
The Alliance Party candidate Eric Bullick pulled in 487 votes, an increase of 23 per cent for the party which polled 398 votes three years ago.
Thursday’s vote means Sinn Fein have held on to the Mid Ulster seat at Westminster, first won by Martin McGuinness in 1997.
The by-election was called after the Deputy First Minister stepped down as MP at the end of last year.
His decision to step down was made in line with Sinn Fein’s party policy to end double jobbing.