Sinn Fein’s strategy for a united Ireland has been given a huge boost with the results of the Northern Ireland Assembly election.
Political parties across the board were judging their future today following the outcome of the historic poll.
There is no doubt, however, that Sinn Fein is the party with the most to celebrate, although the middle-class Alliance Party also performed brilliantly.
The vote count has resumed this morning in three centers in Belfast, Jordanstown and Magherafelt.
When the vote was adjourned late last night, only 47 of the 90 seats were filled.
However, within a short period of resumption of voting at 9 a.m. this morning, several other seats were decided.
Sinn Fein currently has 18 seats, while the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has 15, the Alliance Party ten, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) four and the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP) three, with one seat going to the Traditional Unionist goes. Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister and one of the independent unionist Alex Easton.
The clear winners in the election were Sinn Fein, who, once all votes are counted, will become the largest party in the Assembly – the first time a nationalist party has held this position in Northern Ireland’s 100-year history.
This will further bolster Sinn Fein’s strategy for a united Ireland and the party is expected to continue with its plans for a border poll on reunification.
However, when and if the power-sharing government in Stormont will resume operations remains unclear, as DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said he will not nominate ministers for the body until his party’s problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol are resolved.
The DUP had a disappointing election, with the total share of the vote falling to 21 percent, compared to 28 percent in the last parliamentary election in 2017. This is expected to be equivalent to the loss of several seats.
Sinn Fein increased his voting share by 1pc from 2017.
The Alliance Party had excellent elections, taking several seats and increasing its total vote share by 4.5 percent.
The election was also hugely disappointing for the SDLP, which lost several prominent MLAs. Another predicted SDLP casualty was the party’s deputy leader Nichola Mallon, who struggles to hold on to her seat in North Belfast.
UUP leader Doug Beattie also fought today to save his political career as he faces an uphill battle to keep his seat in the Upper Bann constituency.
The TUV, which is considered a hardline trade union party, had good elections and increased its vote share by 5%. Despite this, Mr Allister is so far the only member of his party to have won a seat.
Among the well-known MLAs who have already lost their seats is former DUP Education Minister Peter Weir, who was a member of the first Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998.
Roy Beggs of the UUP, who was also elected in 1998, was eliminated in East Antrim.