Tuesday 19 September 2017

No shocks for Stormont as party numbers remain static

DUP and UUP no change, SF down one, SDLP lose two, while PBP wins two seats

The DUP has replicated its historic performance of 2011 by again winning 38 seats — a strong validation of the recently appointed party leader Arlene Foster. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The DUP has replicated its historic performance of 2011 by again winning 38 seats — a strong validation of the recently appointed party leader Arlene Foster. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

David Young in Belfast

It will be essentially "as you were" for the largest parties in the next Northern Ireland Assembly.

Last night the counting of votes in the Northern Ireland Assembly election reached its conclusion.

The Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein will retain their position as the major parties in the power-sharing coalition administration at Stormont.

The DUP has replicated its historic performance of 2011 by again winning 38 seats - a strong validation of the recently appointed party leader Arlene Foster.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein lost one seat, giving them a total of 28 seats.

Of the 108 seats declared, the DUP had 38, Sinn Fein 28, the Ulster Unionists 16, the SDLP 12, Alliance eight, People Before Profit Alliance two, Green Party two, with the Traditional Unionist Voice and Independent Claire Sugden winning one each.

DUP supporters were ecstatic with the performance, as many pundits had predicted a decrease on what was considered 2011's high water mark.

Sinn Fein missed out on the 30 seats that would have handed it the electoral strength to veto Assembly legislation using the much maligned "petition of concern" voting mechanism.

The SDLP and Ulster Unionists had disappointing elections, failing to mount a significant challenge to the hegemony of the major government partners.

The SDLP dropped two seats on its 2011 tally, and while the UUP took 16 seats - as in 2011 - and it did not make the in-roads leader Mike Nesbitt had predicted.

The new power-sharing administration is set to face vocal criticism from the opposition benches at Stormont after the People Before Profit Alliance (PBP) won two seats.

In a remarkable performance for the socialist anti-austerity party, Gerry Carroll topped the poll in Sinn Fein's west Belfast heartland while veteran civil rights campaigner Eamonn McCann won a seat in Foyle.

The Green Party also secured two seats, with party leader Steven Agnew and Clare Bailey winning through.

Jim Allister, leader of the TUV and arch-critic of the last administration, retained his seat, though failed to bring any colleagues in with him.

During the campaign, Mrs Foster placed particular onus on beating Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness in the race to see which one of them took the First Minister's job and which the Deputy's role. The tactic was criticised by some - though it appears to have paid dividends.

Among the high-profile political casualties were Independent unionist John McCallister, who lost his South Down seat after nine years, and outgoing DUP MLAs David McIlveen and Ian McCrea.

The Alliance Party's Naomi Long and Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew will be making a return to Stormont after previously serving as MPs.

Jenny Palmer, who quit the DUP amid allegations she had been bullied, took a seat from her former party when she was elected for the Ulster Unionists in Lagan Valley.

UUP leader Mr Nesbitt topped the poll in Strangford.

Former DUP Health Minister Jim Wells, who was embroiled in a series of controversies in the last term, was also re-elected in South Down.

The SDLP faced a tight battle to retain its single seat in West Belfast with Alex Attwood narrowly pipping the DUP's Frank McCoubrey by 89 votes.

Sunday Independent

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