NI election turnout 'highest assembly poll since 1998 Good Friday Agreement'


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Liam McBurney

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Sinn Féin’s Órlaithí Flynn was the first MLA to be elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly

The turnout for the Northern Ireland Assembly election is the highest since the vote which followed the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Féin has increased its vote, whilst the DUP has largely held its place.

A total of 64.8% of the electorate voted – up 10 points on last year – beating the 2003 figure by 0.8%.

So far 42 out of 90 seats have been confirmed.

Former First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster, Sinn Féin’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood are among those elected.

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DUP leader Arlene Foster is re-elected in Fermanagh and South Tyrone

There was shock when two former ministers, – one from the nationalist SDLP and the other from the Ulster Unionist party – lost their seats.

The first big shock came when Alex Attwood, SDLP, lost his seat in west Belfast. The second was when Danny Kennedy, UUP, was eliminated in Newry & Armagh.

The SDLP suffered a body blow in Foyle – the traditional heartland of the party and former seat of its founder John Hume. Sinn Féin came home first and second in the count, leaving the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Mark H Durkan trailing in their wake.

After Mr Attwood lost his seat, the party, which once held sway in west Belfast, now no longer has a presence there.

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Long-standing SDLP assembly member Alex Attwood failed to secure his seat in west Belfast

The election – the second in 10 months – was called after the collapse of a coalition led by Arlene Foster’s DUP and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.

Mr McGuinness resigned over Mrs Foster’s refusal to step aside as first minister pending an inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, which could cost the Northern Ireland tax payer £490m.

Former DUP Minister Jonathan Bell who was suspended from the party for allegedly speaking to the press without permission over the RHI scandal, has also lost his seat.

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Tony Hendron

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Danny Kennedy, UUP, prepares to speak to the press following his defeat

Under Northern Ireland’s power-sharing agreement, the government must be run by Irish nationalists and unionists together.

DUP East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said his party had held up well in the wake of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) debacle. Arlene Foster was the right person to lead the DUP, he said.

“Despite the torrents of abuse and smears and innuendo that was levelled against her, the people are sticking with her.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Sinn Féin were the “net beneficiaries” of a huge nationalist turnout intent on punishing Mrs Foster.

“Those of us in the middle have been clearly squeezed,” he said.

A total of 1,254,709 people were eligible to vote for 228 candidates competing for 90 seats in 18 constituencies. The turnout was up across the board.

The final make-up of the new 90-seat Assembly is unlikely to be clear until Saturday afternoon.

Among the smaller parties, Gerry Carroll, People Before Profit Alliance, kept his Belfast West seat. However, his running mate Michael Collins was eliminated on the first count.

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AFP

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A bird’s eye view of the Mid-Ulster count in Ballymena

Analysis: Gerry Bradley, BBC Radio Foyle

The SDLP citadel of Foyle has fallen to the old enemy: Sinn Féin. For the first time, it has overtaken the SDLP in John Hume’s heartland.

First, Elisha McCallion wiped the floor with the opposition, then former IRA hunger striker Raymond McCartney took his seat.

The SDLP always defended Foyle as if they owned it; now they don’t.

It will be disappointing for SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and his colleague Mark H Durkan, They keep their seats. But no longer can the SDLP say: “This is ours.”

And could Sinn Féin now set their sights on Durkan’s Westminster seat?


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Niall Carson

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Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s Northern leader, celebrated winning her seat

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PAcemaker

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Alliance leader Naomi Long celebrates her success

This assembly election saw one significant change: The number of assembly members has been reduced from 108 to 90 which will mean each constituency returning five MLAs each and not six,

The number of MLAs has been cut in order to reduce the cost of politics. Forty-eight fewer candidates stood in this election than in May last year.

Media captionHow does the electoral system to elect MLAs work in Northern Ireland?

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Press Eye

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Steven Agnew, Green Party, celebrates winning a seat in North Down

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PACEMAKER

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Some dressed up as crocodiles on polling day, in reference to Arlene Foster’s remark likening Sinn Féin to the reptile

The largest unionist and nationalist parties after the election will have three weeks to form a power-sharing government to avoid devolved power returning to the British parliament at Westminster for the first time in a decade.

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Liam McBurney

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Sinn Féin’s Niall O Donnghaile, DUP candidate Christopher Stalford and Alliance candidate Emmet McDonough-Brown at the Titanic Belfast count centre

The BBC News NI website will carry the latest election results and analysis on Friday and throughout the weekend.

There will also be special election programmes running on BBC Radio Ulster from midday, on BBC Radio Foyle from 15:00 GMT and on BBC One Northern Ireland at 13:30 GMT.



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