NI Assembly: Sinn Féin's Órlaithí Flynn tops poll in Belfast West

The elections are an attempt to elect a fresh government which will be willing to resurrect power-sharing.

The number of seats has decreased from the 108 that were available in 2016.

Counting will get underway at 8am this morning in the Northern Ireland Assembly election. Gerry Kelly, a Sinn Fein north Belfast candidate, told AFP his party had taken a "huge decision".

During a televised debate on Tuesday, Michelle O'Neill, who replaced Mr McGuinness as the head of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland said the DUP's pro-Brexit view was "absolutely disgusting".

Former first minister Peter Robinson has warned politicians to step back and avert a headlong rush towards the destruction of devolved government.

"I think it is disappointing and disgraceful that the DUP have taken a stance against the majority of the people here", she said. But while Scotland has been loudly lobbying for its interests, the Northern Ireland political establishment has been distracted by the crisis.

The possibility of a return to checkpoints has revived memories of "The Troubles", three decades of strife in Northern Ireland over British control of the province, in which more than 3,500 people were killed.

Euronews spoke to James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about the potential consequences of a United Kingdom exit for relations between Northern Ireland and its southern neighbour, Ireland.

"The Good Friday Agreement has been underpinned by European legislation, in particular human rights legislation, so Brexit is going to have serious implications for guaranteeing those rights".

Sinn Fein and the DUP are expected once again to be the two main parties following Thursday's vote, and therefore bound to form a power-sharing executive, with the victor electing the province's First Minister and the second party nominating its Deputy First Minister.

Stormonts' most senior former spin doctor, however, hinted that the government could use the threat of stopping MLAs' pay to boost the prospects of agreement between the parties.

First counts are expected to be announced in the early afternoon.

While the DUP is predicted to come out on top as the largest party in NI once again, polls suggest that the nationalist SF will close the gap further. Failure to do so could see the return of "direct rule" over the province by the British government at Westminster.

  • Salvatore Jensen