By Rebecca Black, PA
Northern Ireland’s political leaders have been delivering eve of poll messages ahead of the Stormont Assembly elections.
Voters will go to the polls across 18 constituencies on Thursday to elect 90 MLAs.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson spent his final day canvassing in Belfast while Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill spent time in Mid Ulster.
Opinion polls have suggested Sinn Féin is likely to top the poll, and the Alliance Party is tipped to have a surge in support.
If translated into results, expected to start being announced from Friday afternoon, it would be the first time a nationalist or republican party has finished top at Stormont and could nominate a first minister.
Mr Donaldson described the election as “a choice between real action on issues that matter to people or a divisive Border poll plan”.
Tomorrow, you have a choice between the DUP’s policy plan to ease cost of living pressures or SF’s plan for a divisive border poll.
Your vote will decide which plan Stormont adopts.@J_Donaldson_MP pic.twitter.com/UkV1ScRh1o
— DUP (@duponline) May 4, 2022
He described the outcome of the election as “critical to the future of Northern Ireland”.
“Only a first preference vote for the DUP can stop SF’s divisive Border poll plans. After voting one DUP, I ask pro-union voters to maximise the value of their votes by transferring to other pro-union candidates,” he said.
Ms O’Neill described a “moment in history” and one for “real change”.
She said she wants to become a first minister for all.
I want to be a First Minister for all, leading an agenda for real change.
Working to fix our health service.
Helping people through the cost of living crisis.
This Thursday you can make history.
Vote Sinn Féin. It is time for real change. pic.twitter.com/YdzXZV5ENr
— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) May 4, 2022
“On day one after this election Sinn Féin will be ready to form an executive and get down to business,” she said.
“Our MLAs will deliver right across the whole community, for everyone. Our focus will be on our common ground.
“On Thursday 5th May, you can elect a first minister for all by voting Sinn Féin.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood visited a number of constituencies on the final day of canvassing to support his candidates.
— Colum Eastwood 🇺🇦 (@columeastwood) May 4, 2022
He is the only party leader who is not running for election on Thursday. He is currently the MP for Foyle.
Mr Eastwood appealed for votes for his party, saying more SDLP MLAs “will mean that next Assembly addresses soaring fuel, food and energy bills, tackles the waiting list crisis and puts you and your family first”.
“To make it happen, vote SDLP tomorrow,” he said.
UUP leader Doug Beattie said his party is offering a “confident, positive, pro-union alternative that will work for everyone”.
Still unsure who to vote for tomorrow?
Read our Manifesto with our plans to
🏥 Rebuild our NHS
💷 Reduce the cost of living
❌ Replace the NI Protocol
Our Manifesto - https://t.co/nH7sjUSFjY
Vote Ulster Unionist to #BuildABetterNorthernIreland pic.twitter.com/VWZ2apS6tr
— Ulster Unionist (@uuponline) May 4, 2022
“Walking away from Stormont won`t solve the problem. The protocol needs to be replaced with a solution that works for everyone so that we can focus on rebuilding the NHS, boosting economic recovery and tackling the rising cost of living. Politicians should not be abandoning their posts at this time,” he said.
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said her party is strongly tipped to make a “seismic breakthrough, one that could change the way Stormont works”.
“History is there to be made on Thursday. But only your first preferences can ensure it,” she said.
Polling stations are set to open at 7am on Thursday, and remain open for voters to cast their ballots until 10pm.