First Assembly members returned

Democratic Unionist deputy leader Peter Robinson and Alliance deputy leader Naomi Long were today elected as the first members of the new Northern Assembly.

Democratic Unionist deputy leader Peter Robinson and Alliance deputy leader Naomi Long were today elected as the first members of the new Northern Assembly.

Early indications from across the 18 constituencies suggested while the DUP and Sinn Féin were on course to make gains, Reg Empey's Ulster Unionists were under pressure in a number of constituencies.

The SDLP were also fighting to hold on to their vote.

Mr Robinson and Ms Long were elected in East Belfast where Empey just missed the quota.

The DUP were believed to be on course for three seats in the constituency after an impressive piece of vote management under the proportional representation system.

However, Ulster Unionist Michael Copeland and Progressive Unionist leader Dawn Purvis were believed to be fighting it out for the sixth and final seat.

PUP election workers for Ms Purvis were delighted that she managed to poll 3,045 votes, considering she was catapulted into standing in the constituency following the unexpected death in January of her predecessor David Ervine.

In 2003, Mr Ervine managed to hold on to his Assembly seat with just 2,990 votes.

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