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Flash: Trimble out; Durkan, Murphy in

David Trimble became the biggest name casualty of the British
General Election tonight as his Ulster Unionist Party slumped in
the General Election.

The former First Minister was comprehensively beaten in Upper
Bann, losing to Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists.

Mr Trimble's defeat was a hammer blow for his party, which has
seen a substantial swing across the North to the DUP and has
been left with just one seat at Westminster - that of Sylvia
Hermon in wealthy North Down.

The defeat appears to have spelled the end of Mr Trimble's
future as Ulster Unionist leader.

An emotional Mr Trimble said he was proud of his 15-year record
serving Upper Bann in the House of Commons.

Mr Trimble said: "The DUP will know that with success comes
responsibility. I believe they have inherited from Ulster
Unionism a very strong position for unionism and I hope they
manage to safeguard that position over the course of the months
to come.

However, his hardline opponents struggled to appear graceful

"The lesson is you cannot play fast and loose with the
electorate and get away with it," said DUP deputy leader Peter

"Slowly but surely he has been held to account by the Unionist

The fixation of the mainstream media on the UUP's demise was
interrupted only by delight at the narrow escape of the SDLP,
who are set to return three MPs, as they began the day.

As expected from early this morning, party leader Mark Durkan
fended off a challenge from Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin and
held onto his party's seat in Foyle.

Sinn Fein's share of the vote increased by 6.6%, but it was not
enough to overhaul the rival nationalists, whose vote
declined by 3.9% in their former stronghold.

Amid tactical voting by Ulster Unionists, republicans drew
parallels with Joe Hendron's victory over Gerry Adams in west
Belfast in 1992. Durkan admitted as much, adding that some
unionists "were proud to vote for us".

The seat will undoubtedly be Sinn Fein's chief target in four
years time.

Elsewhere, Conor Murphy took Newry and Armagh for Sinn Fein
by a wide margin. The dramatic gain from the SDLP had been well
tipped, but was widely ignored by the broadcast media.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness easily
retained his seat in Mid-Ulster, despite the controversial late
appearance of a mystery ballot box.

The final tally for the parties, pending confirmation in two
constituencies, is: DUP 9, SF 5, SDLP 3, UUP 1

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