ON a dark day for unionism, the performance of Tom Buchanan was one of the few shining moments for the DUP.
While party leader Arlene Foster was locked away in a side room of Omagh Leisure Complex, Tom Buchanan was in the main hall celebrating topping the poll in West Tyrone with an increased vote.
In contrast, Foster’s vote dropped and her Fermanagh and South Tyrone running mate Maurice Morrow was one of many high profile casualties for the DUP.
Friday was a poor day all round for unionism – as well as losing the majority of MLAs in the Assembly, the day also saw Mike Nesbitt stand down as leader of the UUP and a huge question mark raised over Arlene Foster’s position moving into government negotiations this week.
In her coronation only ten months ago when Foster romped to victory in stage one, there were cheers, celebrations and smiles for the media.
She cut a more sombre figure on Friday, reluctant to engage with the press and spoke about “building bridges” in her podium speech.
When asked if Foster will remain DUP leader, party veteran Edwin Poots had a one word answer – “Yes.”
While some commentators said this was not exactly a glowing endorsement, Tom Buchanan also had a robust response to the issue of his party leadership.
He said, “Arlene is our party leader and will remain the party leader and has the full support of the party and the electorate.”
Mr Buchanan also laid the blame for the weakening of the Union at the feet of Mike Nesbitt when he encouraged voters to give their preferences to SDLP candidates. This move seemed to have been reciprocated in Fermanagh and South Tyrone with Richie McPhillips’ SDLP transfers taking the UUP candidate Rosemary Barton over the line at the expense of Maurice Morrow.
Mr Buchanan paid tribute to Lord Morrow and said he will still have an important role to play for the DUP.
“Maurice Morrow has been a stalwart to the DUP and has been an excellent representative in the west of the province and I congratulate him on all the work he has done for the people,” said Mr Buchanan.
“Although he is no longer elected to the Assembly he will still be a hugely important member of the party as chairman and I am sure he will continue to give the party his all.”