By David Young, PA
Sinn Féin entered the Stormont election a little over 1,000 first preference votes behind the DUP and emerged around 66,000 ahead of its unionist rivals.
Those are among the key numbers that tell the story of the 2022 Northern Ireland Assembly poll.
With more than 250,000 first preference votes, Sinn Féin’s vote share was up more than one point to 29 per cent.
The party ended the election with the same number of seats it started with – 27.
The DUP vote shared dropped by 6.7 to 21.3 per cent. Its 184,000 first preference votes were down by around 40,000 on 2017.
It dropped three seats from the 28 it won in 2017, ending the election with 25 (it entered the election with 27 after one sitting MLA quit the party last year).
In addition to Sinn Féin, the other main winner of the election was the Alliance Party, which continued its hot streak of recent successes.
Its 13.5 per cent vote share is up by about 4.5 on 2017.
The cross-community party will return to the Assembly with 17 seats, more than doubling its tally of eight from five years ago.
It was a very different story for the SDLP and UUP.
The SDLP slumped from the third-largest party to the fifth, with its 9.1% vote share representing a near three-point drop on 2017.
Five years ago, it won 12 seats – this time the party only secured eight.
The UUP entered the election in optimistic mood, hoping recently installed leader Doug Beattie would produce a bounce at the polls.
That did not materialise, with its vote share falling 1.7 to 11.2 per cent.
However, it only dropped one seat, ending the election with nine.
There is no doubt the TUV had a successful election, more than doubling its first preference vote share to 7.6 per cent.
However, there will be significant frustration for the party too, as that increase in votes was not translated into any additional seats.
The party will continue to be represented by a sole voice at Stormont through leader Jim Allister, who retained his North Antrim seat.
The Green Party’s vote share dropped 0.4 to 1.9 per cent, and it lost both its MLAs, as leader Clare Bailey and Rachel Woods were swallowed up in the Alliance surge.
People Before Profit’s vote dropped by 0.6 to 1.1 per cent but its sole MLA – Gerry Carroll – was still able to retain his seat.
Independent unionist Alex Easton, who resigned from the DUP last year, had no problems retaining his North Down seat, romping home as a poll topper with 9,568 first preference votes.
His win brings the number of independent unionists at Stormont to two, with former justice minister Claire Sugden also retaining her seat in East Derry.