Foster admits "very good day" for Sinn Féin in Stormont elections

Sinn Féin's new leader was elected in Mid-Ulster

Foster admits "very good day" for Sinn Féin in Stormont elections

Michelle O'Neill's ballots are seen during counting in Northern Ireland's assembly election | Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster says it looks like it has been a "very good day" for Sinn Féin in Stormont Assembly election.

She was elected in Fermanagh-South Tyrone, after failing to reach the quota on the first count.

While Sinn Féin’s new leader there, Michelle O'Neill, was elected earlier after topping the Mid-Ulster poll with 10,258 votes.

The party has also got seats in West and South Belfast, after Orlaithi Flynn and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir were both elected.

Ms O'Neill explained why so many people have had their say.

"One: they believe in the institutions; two: they believe in Sinn Féin and understand that we're interested in delivering equality and respect for all people, regardless if you voted for us in this election or not.

"One of the things that I consistently said throughout the campaign is what Sinn Féin win in this election, we win for all".

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has been giving his reaction in Belfast.

“I want to commend Michelle O’Neill – she led us in a very positive campaign – and I also think this is a huge vote of thanks to Martin McGuinness.

“It’s a vote and a mandate and it will have to be respected by the two governments, by all the other parties for a step change.

“For an end to the old status quo, for a new beginning to how we do our business here”, he added.

There have also been wins for the UUP, DUP and Alliance parties.

Speaking in Belfast, Mrs Foster said: "It looks like it has been a very good day for Sinn Féin. We'll have to see. Early days."

Big gains for Sinn Féin

With all 18 constituencies in Northern Ireland having declaring their first round results, the DUP topped the poll in terms of share of the vote but it led Sinn Féin by just 1,168 votes.

Turnout hit its highest level in almost two decades and this appears to have benefited Sinn Féin and more moderate parties.

The DUP may end up still being the largest party but with only around two seats more than Sinn Fein, which has made big gains.

The DUP was on 28.1% (down 1.1%), with Sinn Féin on 27.9% (up 3.9%), the Ulster Unionists on 12.9% (up 0.3%), SDLP on 11.9% (down 0.1%), the Alliance party on 9.1% (up 2.1%) and others on 10.2% (down 5.1%).

Almost two-thirds of the electorate - 64.78% - voted in the poll. That is 10% higher than last year, with a total of 812,783 votes cast on Thursday.

The last time the turnout was as high was in the first assembly election after devolution began, in June 1998, when 69.88% of the electorate cast their ballots.

The election was triggered by the collapse of devolved government six weeks ago following controversy over a botched green energy scheme.

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister amid the controversy, while the DUP's Arlene Foster refused to step aside as first minister.

Some 228 candidates are contesting 90 seats in the assembly, five in each of the region's 18 constituencies.

Plans to cut costs by reducing the number of seats from 108 in the 2021 election have been implemented early.

After the election, the parties have three weeks to agree to new power-sharing administration or face the prospect of a return to direct rule from Westminster.