European election: Jim Nicholson takes third Northern Ireland MEP spot

Jim Nicholson, UUP, at the count The UUP's Jim Nicholson (centre) has been elected

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The UUP's Jim Nicholson has joined Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson and the DUP's Diane Dodds, as the third Northern Ireland MEP to be elected.

Ms Anderson topped the poll and was elected on Monday.

In a marathon count lasting more than 24 hours, Mr Nicholson got in ahead of the SDLP's Alex Attwood, who was eliminated at the final stage.

Mrs Dodds was elected at the seventh stage. It means the same three parties have been elected as in 2009.

After his election, Mr Nicholson said: "I don't think any of us will forget these two days.

"They have been long, and a bit of a white-knuckle ride at times, but it has been a very good election."

He said he was now the longest-serving MEP ever from Northern Ireland

DUP celebrate Diane Dodds' election The DUP celebrated Diane Dodds being elected

Ten candidates had been competing for the three seats in Europe.

Mrs Dodds, whose election was greeted by loud cheers from supporters inside the King's Hall count centre in Belfast, said she would fight to secure the best deal for Northern Ireland in Europe.

"The DUP has always been a Eurosceptic party, we are not Johnny-come-latelys to Euroscepticism," she said.

Start Quote

This election was really about who would go back to Europe to get the best deal for Northern Ireland”

End Quote Diane Dodds MEP

"What we do believe is that this election really wasn't about whether we are in Europe or out of Europe.

"This election was really about who would go back to Europe to get the best deal for Northern Ireland, to work hard for Northern Ireland, to stand up for Northern Ireland.

"That's what I will be doing, as well as continuing my campaign for a referendum to give the British people their democratic say on our relationship with Europe."

Counting began on Monday at the King's Hall in Belfast and was suspended at 00:40 BST on Tuesday after almost 16 hours.

It took just over nine hours for the first preference votes to be confirmed.

Gerry Adams, Michelle Gildernew, Martin McGuinness and Martina Anderson Martina Anderson (right) was the first MEP to be elected

Martina Anderson took just over a quarter of the vote, with 159,813 first preferences.

Counting resumed on Tuesday at 09:00 BST and by 15:45 BST Anna Lo of Alliance and Jim Allister of the TUV had been eliminated.

Others eliminated earlier in the count were Henry Reilly UKIP, Mark Brotherston from the NI Conservatives, Tina McKenzie, NI21, and Ross Brown of the Green Party.

The Electoral Office for Northern Ireland has been criticised for its handling of the process.

But chief electoral officer Graham Shields said the episode underlined the need for electronic vote counting in Northern Ireland.

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