Election turnout up as Northern Ireland faces uncertain future 

North of Ireland awaits results of first post-Brexit assembly election 

THE FIRST RESULTS DECLARATIONS HAVE FOUND A SURGE in turnout for Northern Ireland’s assembly elections, as counting begins. 

Official turnout figures in North Down, Strangford, North Antrim, South Antrim, East Belfast, West Belfast, South Belfast, Mid Ulster, West Tyrone, and East Derry-Londonderry all show a jump in turnout compared to the same election in May 2016 of a 10 per cent average.

Under a year from the last election, the Northern Ireland executive of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin collapsed - leading to the new ballot. 

Daithi McKay of Sinn Féin claimed the election had “motivated and reawakened a dormant nationalist vote”.

The DUP have won the most seats in every Northern Irish election since the Good Friday Agreement, which brought in the post-troubles era of power sharing to Stormont. The DUP faced pressure during the campaign over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal, and the implications of Brexit for the Northern Irish economy. 

Daithi McKay of Sinn Féin claimed the election had “motivated and reawakened a dormant nationalist vote”. The DUP, under leader Arlene Foster, are attempting to hold onto its position as the leading party.

The election was called after the resignation of Sinn Féin deputy first minister Martin McGuinness in opposition to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal, and a breakdown in relations with DUP executive partners.  
 
It is also the first vote since Northern Ireland supported remaining in the European Union - while England and Wales voted to leave. The implications of Brexit raise concerns for the Northern Irish peace process, which was built on an invisible border existing between the north and south of Ireland. The Irish government have made early steps to consider the impact of the return of customs border checks for the passage of goods between the north and the south.

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he will seek an agreement in Brexit talks for Northern Ireland rejoining the European Union, if the voters seek that option in future. Irish nationalists support a united Ireland, and want a ‘border poll’ on unification.

Read more - Mystery deepens over who bankrolled DUP pro-Brexit campaign

The number of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) has been reduced from 108 in the 2016 election to 90 in this year’s election. Each electoral district will elect five MLAs - down from six at the previous vote. 

The other main parties are the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, the Greens, People Before Profit (PBP), and Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV).

Results will be announced later today [Friday 3 March] and may continue late into the night. However, tension is set to continue as it is unclear if any new executive will be formed following the results. This could result in the imposion of ‘direct rule’ of Northern Ireland from London in place of the devolved settlement.

Picture courtesy of Rovingl

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