Farry 'will not take' Eastwood's seat at Stormont

Stephen Farry (left) and Sorcha Eastwood (right) standing in front of media microphones
Sorcha Eastwood says Stephen Farry "needs to take time to reflect" [PA Media]

The former Alliance MP Stephen Farry will not take his party colleague Sorcha Eastwood’s seat in Stormont, Ms Eastwood has said.

Ms Eastwood, an MLA who entered the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2022, was elected to Westminster as MP for Lagan Valley.

Alliance Party deputy leader Mr Farry, who had held the North Down seat since 2019, lost out to independent unionist Alex Easton in Thursday's general election.

However, Ms Eastwood said he will not be co-opted into her Lagan Valley seat in Stormont.

Speaking to BBC News NI’s Sunday Politics, Ms Eastwood said she does not know who will take the seat.

Sorcha Eastwood, right, standing in front of a blue wall with the Electoral Office logo on it to the left
Sorcha Eastwood won the Lagan Valley seat [PA Media]

“We are a professional party - we run things through a process. That’s exactly what we’re going to be doing,” she told the programme.

“It’s a very tight timeframe for us to do that."

Ms Eastwood added: “Stephen is a great loss, not just to Alliance, not just to Westminster, but to Northern Ireland, I think.

“He needs to take time to reflect on what’s happened. He has so much to contribute in any sphere of life, in any way he wants.”

Stormont's co-option system was introduced because holding a by-election could change the party political balance within a six-member constituency. The system also avoids the expense of by-elections.

DUP's 'huge job of work'

The DUP had lost three seats in Thursday’s election, securing just five out of the eight the party had held since 2019.

Its most high profile casualty was Ian Paisley, who lost the North Antrim seat his father had first won in 1970.

Ian Paisley (right) walking through the Magherafelt count centre
The North Antrim seat had been held by the Paisley family since 1970 [PA Media]

Speaking about how the DUP fared, North Belfast MLA Phillip Brett told Sunday Politics the party was “not taking this result lightly”.

“There is a huge job of work for us to do for our party,” he said.

“Our leadership will ensure that we reflect on what happened at this election but it’s also important to look at the success stories that the party had in this election."

Mr Brett suggested that “people who normally vote DUP either stayed at home” or “voted for other parties”.

“The responsibility for us as leaders of unionism is to ensure that at the next election that is not the case,” he added.

'Comfortable hold'

Robin Swann of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) won in South Antrim at the expense of the DUP's Paul Girvan.

Lord Empey told Sunday Politics that the UUP “had to get on to the green benches” in this election.

“Otherwise, it would have been a huge struggle for us,” he said.

The SDLP returned with its two MPs, Colum Eastwood in Foyle and Claire Hanna in Belfast South and Mid Down. Ms Hanna said the SDLP still has a “comfortable hold”.

John Finucane standing behind a podium
John Finucane declined to disclose how much he and fellow Sinn Féin MPs are paid [PA Media]

Sinn Féin’s John Finucane also retained his seat in Belfast North.

Sinn Féin is now the largest party across Northern Ireland's councils, assembly and at Westminster.

The nationalist party, which does not take its seats in the House of Commons, has seven seats after Thursday's UK general election - the same number as in 2019.

Mr Finucane was questioned about how much Sinn Féin MPs are paid - they don’t receive a salary from Westminster due to the party's abstentionist policy.

He said what the party’s MPs is paid is “less” than a Westminster MP salary.

However, when pressed, he declined to disclose exactly how much he or his fellow Sinn Féin MPs receive.

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