Returning DUP MLA for Fermanagh South Tyrone, Deborah Erskine began her acceptance speech by stating “Arlene Foster should be here today for re-election.”

Mrs. Erskine referred to the year that has passed as a “difficult year”, referencing the departure of her friend and mentor from elected politics.

She said: “My friend, Arlene Foster, should be here today for re-election and I want to pay tribute to her for her work and dedication to this constituency and indeed, Northern Ireland.

"Without the support of Arlene, I would not be standing here today, and I hope that I can make Arlene proud in the seat she held.”

READ MORE: Analysis of Fermanagh South Tyrone election results

Mrs. Erskine polled 5,572 first preference votes; with transfer,, she was elected under quota with 6,695 votes. Her running mate, Paul Bell, received 4,355 first preference votes, and with transfers finished with 6,187 votes.

The newly elected MLA will return to Stormont as the youngest Unionist woman and one of the younger voices in the chamber.

In her speech, she said: “People on the doors wanted a vibrant, youthful Unionist voice, and I'm delighted that they have entrusted me with their vote.

"As the youngest Unionist female [representative], I will be a representative for everyone, because I want Northern Ireland to work."

Continuing, she said: “I want this place to thrive. I want Fermanagh and South Tyrone to prosper. I want to fix the health service, grow the economy, keep our schools world-class, and help working families."

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Mrs. Erskine thanked her office staff and campaign team for their efforts during her speech, saying: "I couldn't have done it without those who drove the many roads across the constituency, or walked the lanes. This was truly a team effort.”

Paying tribute to her running mate, Mrs, Erskine said: “I want to thank my running mate Paul Bell as well for his dedication and for his support during this election campaign.

"This was a team effort, and you have secured my seat today, and I will be grateful for that.”

Impartial Reporter: Mark Crawford, Keith Elliott, DUP councillor and Brian HaslettMark Crawford, Keith Elliott, DUP councillor and Brian Haslett

Mrs. Erskine became emotional as she thanked those closest to her. Her voice cracked as she thanked her husband and her family for their support.

She said: “To my family and my husband, Robert, you are the people who have sacrificed the most. Thank you for your patience and support during this time.”

Thanking those who voted for her, Mrs. Erskine said: “Nothing gives me greater pleasure than working for my home constituency. For 5,272 people to cast a first preference beside my name means everything to me.

“You have entrusted me with serving you and your family. There is no greater endorsement or privilege than that.”

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