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Dublin: 8 °C Thursday 23 January, 2020
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Northern Ireland's election is happening today, but will there be any change?

The polls are open in the assembly elections in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Assembly election Source: Niall Carson

POLLS IN NORTHERN Ireland’s MLA elections have opened this morning.

276 candidates are competing for 108 seats in 18 six-seat constituencies for election to the Stormont Assembly. The polls will close this evening, with a result expected by Saturday evening at the latest.

However, opinion polls suggest that the final makeup of the parliament will be little different to how it looks at present.

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster, the current first minister, is expected to retain her position with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness likely to remain as deputy first minister.

Currently Sinn Féin trail the DUP by nine seats in the assembly – 38 to 29.

Mike Nesbitt’s Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and Colum Eastwood’s SDLP are the two other largest parties seeking office.

While Sinn Féin are not seen as being likely to topple the DUP in becoming the largest party, reaching 30 seats in the election would be of great significance.

That would mean the party would gain the power to veto legislation from within the assembly using what is known as the ‘petition of concern’ voting mechanism.

The north has been through a period of political turmoil which began with the withdrawal of the UUP from the power-sharing executive at Stormont last September in the aftermath of the murder of former IRA member Kevin McGuigan.

With the DUP’s Peter Robinson resigning as first minister last December, Foster took over as first minister in January of this year.

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