Sinn Fein surge creates new Northern Ireland landscape

It is hard to know how influential the prospect of Brexit was in the hearts and minds of voters, but the majority for pro-Remain parties echoes the result in the UK's European Union referendum, where both Scotland and Northern Ireland took a pro-EU stance.

"She has my full support, she has the support of the party, and most importantly she has the support of 225,000 people across Northern Ireland who voted for the DUP, who increased the DUP's mandate", Hamilton told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme.

The winning parties will have three weeks to form a government.

The election energised voters, with turnout at 64.8 per cent - the highest since the first vote after the 1998 accord known as the Good Friday Agreement. But the other tale is also that in some cases the DUP refusal to transfer to the UUP has cost the unionists a majority in Stormont for the first time ever.

Vote-counting begins Friday in Northern Ireland's election, aimed at resolving a political crisis aggravated by historic tensions and Brexit.

Turnout figures from Thursday's polls showed the election got voters motivated.

Sinn Fein's leader Michelle O'Neill told journalists it was an "amazing day".

And the two main parties, the Democratic Unionists (DUP) and Sinn Féin, have an incentive to out-shout each other as the leaders of their respective gangs.

With one seat to be filled at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena it is looking increasingly likely the big looser will be the UUP.

The snap election, which was held after Sinn Fein withdrew from a previous power-sharing agreement, handed the Democratic Unionist Party a victory at a steep price.

By contrast, DUP leader Arlene Foster gave no indication that she is considering resignation, speaking about going into negotiations with Sinn Fein where there is "work to be done". "She has lost good friends here and she's hurting a bit, so I have no doubt that Arlene's reflecting on all of this, but we'll support Arlene in whatever way she wants to move forward".

Leader of the cross-community Alliance Party, Naomi Long, voted along with her husband Michael at St Colmcille's parochial house in the east Belfast constituency where she was once MP.

The SDLP fared better than expected and replaced the Ulster Unionist Party, which won just 10 seats, as the third largest party in the Assembly.

Tensions boiled over in January between the two parties in the power-sharing executive, collapsing the administration in the semi-autonomous British province.

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

Northern Ireland is still marginally a mainly Protestant province but demographics suggest Catholics could become the majority within a generation.

  • Leroy Wright