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Counting underway in fourth elections to Stormont Assembly

The DUP and Sinn Féin are expected to remain the biggest parties in Stormont – with a minor chance of Sinn Féin coming out on top.

Peter Robinson could be replaced by Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness as Northern Ireland's First Minister, though the prospect is not likely.
Peter Robinson could be replaced by Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness as Northern Ireland's First Minister, though the prospect is not likely.
Image: Photocall Ireland

COUNTING IS UNDERWAY across Northern Ireland to fill the 108 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont, after voters across Northern Ireland went to the polls yesterday.

The North is split into 18 constituencies, each of which elects six members under the Single Transferable Vote system also used in the general elections south of the border.

The elected candidates will form the fourth assembly at Stormont, with the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin likely to remain as the largest parties representing the unionist and nationalist communities.

The outgoing members include 36 from the DUP led by Peter Robinson, and 27 from Sinn Féin – who are now essentially led by Martin McGuinness following Gerry Adams’ resignation in order to pursue election to the Dáil.

The Ulster Unionist Party, led by Tom Elliott, and Margaret Ritchie’s SDLP both had 16 members in the outgoing assembly, while the Alliance Party of David Ford had seven members and the Green Party one.

The party that emerges with the largest deputation of MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) will gain the title of First Minister, with the DUP’s Peter Robinson likely to retain that position.

If the UUP manages to gain enough of a share of the Unionist vote at the DUP’s expense, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness could claim the post – the first time that a nationalist politician would hold the title.

This prospect is considered unlikely, however, with the DUP not likely to shed much of its support among its traditional unionist base – while the offices of First Minister and Deputy First Minister are equal in rank anyway, despite their naming.

The new Assembly will meet for the first time on Monday week, May 16, with the ministerial positions being filled by the following week.

The number of ministerial positions to which each party is entitled is measured by the D’Hondt method.

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Gavan Reilly

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