For very different reasons, the leaders of the three main trade union parties will be seriously disappointed with the results of the general elections.
But there were key moments in a trio of constituencies that could have changed the bigger picture for any of them and given serious cause for celebration.
Had Doug Beattie not been re-elected in Upper Bann, the DUP would have been over the moon.
It would have been the end of the UUP leader and his liberal unionism.
There had been speculation about Beattie’s vulnerability for weeks, especially with party colleague Glenn Barr on the ticket.
The current Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, he is – as several sources put it – “well received” within the traditional union base.
He was warmly received as a speaker at the anti-protocol rally in the Armagh village of Markethill, where Sammy Wilson was booed.
When the votes were counted, things weren’t looking good for Beattie. Barr only had a small portion of the constituency, but he secured 3,367 votes to his party leader’s 5,199.
When he was eliminated, nearly 1,000 of his votes didn’t go to Beattie.
On Friday night, there was a very real prospect that he was headed for defeat.
On Saturday, the UUP leader came through with the help of TÜV referrals.
Had he not done so, the trade union landscape would have changed completely in favor of the DUP.
With Jim Allister returning to Stormont alone and Beattie out of the game, Jeffrey Donaldson would have breathed a sigh of relief. The DUP is deeply unsettled by the UUP leader’s union movement.
The key moment that could have changed TUV fortunes came at Strangford. Voting nearly 8 per cent across Northern Ireland, the party defied its critics by voting very strongly.
But Jim Allister had been optimistic about returning to Stormont with company. He had said it would be a failure if he went back alone.
His critics will judge him by his own words. With a 13-part vote, Stephen Cooper finished third in first preferences at Strangford. He seemed certain to be chosen.
But TUV transfer toxicity saw Alliance’s Nick Mathison – with just 7 per cent of the vote – rise by each count to be elected on the ninth.
With protocol and accompanying loyalist rallies, the stars have aligned for Allister in this election in a way they never will again.
In a number of constituencies, his candidates defied predictions with performances of 9-10 percent. They could well get council seats, but a future of continued solitude at Stormont is the only one facing the TÜV leader.
Doug Beattie ran the most positive campaign of any union leader in history. He has risked taking his party into new territory considered brave by most but foolish by others.
The DUP vote fell 7 percent, but the UUP was unable to capitalize on it as its own stock fell 2 percent.
East Belfast, North Antrim, East Antrim, Fermanagh and South Tyrone and Foyle were constituencies where the party’s votes rose.
And it was Foyle who gave hope to the party for a few hours on Saturday night. It looked like Ryan McCready would just take the seat of the DUP’s Gary Middleton.
No candidate in this election campaigned more vigorously, vigorously and creatively than the UUP man. In a constituency where the DUP has held the union seat since 1998, he doubled his party’s support and narrowed his election by just 95 votes. After the last count at 1am, he tweeted to Middleton: “Well done with your result. See you in the next one.”
That confident can-do attitude would do his party good at Stormont. Had he been elected, the UUP seat count would have remained intact. McCready, a fresh face in the assembly who is articulate and fiercely confident, despite other disappointments at the election, would have given Beattie every reason to smile had he crossed the payline.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/all-three-unionist-leaders-in-north-have-grave-reasons-to-be-disappointed-with-their-results-41629106.html All three union leaders in the north have serious reasons to be disappointed with their results