The increased voter turnout across Northern Ireland was a clear sign that people want devolved government and local politicians making decisions on key issues such as the economy, health and education.
That’s the view of Alliance’s Trevor Lunn, who comfortably retained his Stormont seat after seeing his first preference vote in Lagan Valley increase by almost 65 per cent from last year - up from 3,707 to 6,105.
“I’d like to thank the people for re-electing me and putting their confidence in me again,” he said. “I’ll do my best to serve them in any way they choose. When people come to me for help I don’t ask how they vote or where they come from, I just deal with their problem the best I can and I will continue doing that.”
While unable to say when he and his fellow MLAs are likely to make a return to the Assembly chamber, Mr Lunn stressed that “the will is there” among the politicians.
“The DUP in particular have had a big cautionary tale over the past couple of days and it’ll knock some of the arrogance out of them, frankly, and I hope they can see the benefit of trying to get together and move things forward,” he said.
Describing the increased turnout across Northern Ireland as “a vote of confidence” for the devolved institutions rather than a protest against the RHI scandal, Mr Lunn continued: “It shows that people trust us and they want Stormont. They want the politicians to get on with it and we really shouldn’t be letting them down.
“From what people were telling us for the last five or six weeks on the doorsteps it’s very much about wanting to sort out health, education, the budget, programme for government and trying to put this place on an even keel. They want us to use the money we have wisely and make decisions for everybody and not for particular sections. We need to try to eliminate some of the costs of division. It’s a long term project, but we have to make a start.”
Reflecting on a successful election for the Alliance Party across Northern Ireland, Mr Lunn said: “Apart from securing our main seats quite easily we have reached out into areas where we only got a nominal vote in the past and we’re now getting a four figure vote, and in a couple of cases well into four figures. We got four-and-a-half thousand votes in South Down and if you go back to 2010 that was probably about 500.
“Our total vote’s gone up from 48,000 to about 72,000, but it’s more the spread and the fact that we all got in with ease. Now west of the Bann we are a significant force and we’ll be looking towards council seats.”
With Alliance looking to make further gains for the centre ground, Mr Lunn is not ruling out the possibility of targeting two seats in Lagan Valley come the next Assembly poll.
“We are up to thirteen-and-a-half per cent of the vote so that’s pretty close to the point where you could run two candidates, but getting two out of five is much more difficult than getting two out of six.
“Maybe if we run a full term this time, in five years time, all things being equal, we would certainly be looking at the potential of running two candidates,” he said.