DUP set to lose kingmaker role with Conservatives on course for majority

The Alliance Party was hopeful of defeating the DUP candidate in North Down.

General Election 2019
General Election 2019

Counting is continuing in Northern Ireland as the parties absorb the potential ramifications of a sizeable Conservative majority in Parliament.

As the DUP faced up to losing its influential position as Westminster kingmaker, and potentially any chance of securing changes to the Brexit deal, the party was locked in several tough battles in high-profile constituency races in Northern Ireland.

In North Down, the Alliance Party was increasingly confident of defeating the DUP in the race to replace outgoing unionist independent Lady Sylvia Hermon.

The DUP also looked set to lose its seat in South Belfast to the SDLP, while its efforts to stave off the challenge of Sinn Fein in the North Belfast appeared to be going down to the wire.

In Foyle, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood looked well positioned to win the seat from Sinn Fein.

The DUP is vehemently opposed to the Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, claiming it will create economic borders down the Irish Sea and weakened Northern Ireland’s place within the Union.

Long-standing DUP MP Sammy Wilson, who is on course to retain his East Antrim seat, insisted his party could still secure changes to the agreement despite the predicted Tory majority.

“Obviously we’d have preferred to be in a situation we were in the last Parliament where we did have the influence and where it was fairly marginal, however for the country it probably wasn’t a great thing because no decisions could be made,” he said.

General Election 2019
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood (Niall Carson/PA)

“I still wouldn’t be totally dismayed insofar as a big majority could actually mean that Boris Johnson can go in and be fairly bullish with the EU when it comes to negotiations, and if he does do that then many of the problems the current deal is going to cause Northern Ireland could disappear.”

The election comes ahead of the latest bid to resurrect the crisis-hit institutions at Stormont.

Ahead of an anticipated round of negotiations on Monday, party vice president Michelle O’Neill said: “Whatever the results, Sinn Fein will be in the talks on Monday morning to work to secure a genuine power-sharing executive which is credible and sustainable to deliver good government and properly resourced public services to all.

“Sinn Fein will continue to represent people where it matters and stand up against Brexit.”

The DUP went into the election holding 10 of Northern Ireland’s 18 seats.

Sinn Fein held seven and Lady Sylvia the other.

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