Northern Ireland election: What happens next?

The composition of the Stormont Assembly has been changed significantly by this snap election.

The DUP's Mervyn Storey has said today has been "a wake up call for unionism" after Sinn Fein's Philip McGuigan topped the poll in North Antrim.

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

Because the DUP didn't win at least 30 seats, it will also lose the ability to veto legislation on its own.

"To effectively hand power back to London would I think be a disaster for devolution and a serious set back for progress in Northern Ireland".

"I almost didn't bother voting but Foster can't be allowed to get away with it", said Sean Kelly, a 35-year-old civil servant.

Sinn Fein will be riding high on these election results.

Despite the significance of the election result, its effect will hinge on the outcome of negotiations as the parties try to cobble together a new power-sharing Executive.

Throughout the election campaign, Foster has appealed for unionists to resist Sinn Fein's demands for her to stand aside pending an investigation into the energy scheme.

Sinn Fein's leader Michelle O'Neill told journalists it was an "amazing day". Parties need to take care that the positions they are adopting do not close off sensible options.

"[The Renewable Heat Incentive scandal] may have been the excuse but it certainly wasn't the cause of the election.

Tensions were also exacerbated by the British vote to leave the European Union, also known as Brexit, which the DUP supported but Sinn Fein opposed.

The largest party, the DUP, is running 38 - six fewer than a year ago.

He added: "It has not been a good day for unionism in Mid Ulster".

"Mike Nesbitt did the right thing by resigning because if he hadn't, there would have been an unpleasant discussion". Controversy around his comment that he would give a second preference vote to an SDLP candidate appears to have cost him dearly. "In pure terms, the buck stops here", he said. He said he regretted the fact that the election left Northern Ireland more polarised.

"We will get there", he said.

Ballot boxes were opened at 8am this morning to begin the count in Northern Ireland.

What has happened in previous Belfast elections?

"We are very, very happy".

  • Leroy Wright