Northern Ireland's two big gangs go on shouting

Mrs Dillon was speaking to the UlsterHerald after being elected along with party colleague Ian Milne making up a trio of Sinn Fein MLAs as Michelle O'Neill went in on the first count.

"It doesn't look promising" for a new government being created, Professor Jonathan Tonge of University of Liverpool, who has written extensively on Northern Irish politics.

Following the major shake-up of the snap election, leaders have three weeks to form an executive or risk the re-imposition of direct rule from Westminster.

Mr Storey, who is one of three DUP candidates vying for election in the traditionally unionist heartland, admitted it could be a challenge for the party to hold on to its third seat this time around.

Theresa May spoke by telephone with Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, for 15 minutes yesterday.

But in the next Assembly - if indeed those negotiations result in devolved government returning in the coming weeks - the DUP faces Sinn Fein breathing down its neck.

The decision to leave creates a big problem in Northern Ireland, with its busy and open border with the Republic of Ireland now set to become an external European Union border.

Full results are not expected until Saturday due to the complexities of the proportional representation voting system. Former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness triggered the election by resigning in January, declaring the vote a referendum on Foster's leadership.

"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".

Sinn Fein wants DUP leader Arlene Foster to step aside from the nomination for first minister, a demand rejected by her party.

However, on Sunday Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd, education minister in a previous executive, said Sinn Fein would not support Ms Foster's nomination.

Observers predict a similar outcome to the May 2016 assembly elections, in which the Protestant and conservative DUP won slightly more seats than the Catholic and socialist Sinn Fein. Meanwhile Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams said his party's surge in popularity showed that nationalists were opposed to Brexit.

Michelle O'Neill, the 40-year-old new leader of Sinn Fein whose elevation represented a generational shift within the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army, benefited most from the highest turnout in two decades.

Mr Brokenshire said there was an urgent need to resolve the disagreements around the implementation of the legacy component in the Stormont House Agreement. "We will vote in a post-sectarian election", Nesbitt said.

The centre ground parties - Alliance and the Greens - have had a strong election, proportionately increasing their representation in the Assembly.

  • Leroy Wright