Counting resumes in NI Assembly election with Sinn Féin poised for historic victory

Just 53 of 90 MLAs had been elected when the count was stopped on Friday.
Counting resumes in NI Assembly election with Sinn Féin poised for historic victory

By Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Updated at 12.12pm

Counting has resumed in the Northern Ireland Assembly election with Sinn Féin firmly on course to emerge as the largest Stormont party.

Shortly before noon on Saturday, 53 of 90 seats had been filled, with only five out of 18 constituency counts completed.

Sinn Féin currently has 18 seats, while the DUP have 14, the Alliance Party 10, the Ulster Unionists (UUP) four and the SDLP on three, with one seat going to TUV leader Jim Allister and one to independent unionist Alex Easton.

Sinn Féin also won the battle for largest vote share with 250,388 first preferences, compared with 184,002 for the DUP and 116,681 for the Alliance Party.

This means that it received 29 per cent of first preference votes, compared with 21.3 per cent for the DUP, 13.5 per cent for Alliance, 11.2 per cent for the UUP and 9.1 per cent for the SDLP.

2022 NI Assembly election
Jeffrey Donaldson’s DUP will retain its position as the largest unionist party (Brian Lawless/PA)

Naomi Long’s Alliance Party looks set to be the other main winner from the election, with a surge of support for the cross-community party likely to make it the third largest at Stormont, ahead of the UUP and SDLP, who have both had disappointing results.

The DUP, led by Jeffrey Donaldson, will comfortably retain its position as the largest unionist party despite a drop in its overall share of the vote.

Sinn Féin’s vice president Michelle O’Neill was elected on the first count in Mid Ulster, with Alliance leader Naomi Long topping the poll in East Belfast.

TUV leader Jim Allister retained his seat in North Antrim, but it is looking unlikely his party will win any further seats.

DUP leader Mr Donaldson was elected on the first count in Lagan Valley.

After his election he delivered a personal challenge to Boris Johnson to address outstanding issues around the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol, which unionists oppose because it imposes economic barriers between the region and the rest of the UK.

He said: “My message this evening is directed towards the prime minister, the Secretary of State and the Government at Westminster, they are co-guarantors of the [Good Friday] Agreement, and they have the opportunity to act to ensure that political stability is restored.

“I recognise that we have our differences, particularly in relation to the protocol, but I think we all accept that this is a problem that needs to be addressed and the sooner it is addressed the better for all of us.”

2022 NI Assembly election
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast speaking with media after she was returned as an MLA for the Northern Ireland Assembly (Liam McBurney/PA)

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie was expected to face a challenge in terms of his re-election in Upper Bann.

Ms O’Neill was surrounded by party colleagues and supporters as she topped the poll in Mid Ulster.

She said that Sinn Féin wanted to “together work in partnership with others”.

“That is the only way we will achieve much, much more for people here, whether in terms of the cost-of-living crisis or trying to fix our health service.”

Some 239 candidates stood across 18 constituencies.

Five Assembly seats are up for grabs in each of the 18 constituencies.

Northern Ireland uses the single transferable vote proportional representation electoral system.

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