Northern Ireland election results live: Ballot counting underway after snap vote to save power-sharing

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Crucial election attempts to restore power-sharing to Northern Ireland and avoid direct rule being imposed from London

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Ballot counting is taking place across Northern Ireland today, to ascertain the result of an emergency election called in a bid to save power-sharing in the region.

A higher than average turn-out is understood to have cast their ballots in the crucial vote for the Northern Ireland election.

First results are expected late this afternoon.

  • Emergency elections called after Sinn Fein pulled out of power-sharing in January
  • Vote attempts to elect fresh government willing to return to power-sharing and restore devolution
  • If unsuccessful, Northern Ireland faces being run directly from London for the first time in a decade

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Voting takes place using a Proportional Representation system of Single Transferable Vote. This means that rather than marking ballot papers with an 'x' by the name of a preferred candidate, voters in Northern Ireland assign preferences by ranking candidates 1, 2, 3 etc. Vote counting therefore takes longer than in Westminster elections.

The election was sparked by nationalist party Sinn Fein's decision to pull out of power-sharing at Stormont. They were protesting their unionist counterpart's behaviour in how they handled allegations of a major financial scandal.

The Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, presided over by Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, appears to have cost the taxpayer some £480 million due to gross mismanagement. She strongly denies any wrong doing. After she refused to step down, Sinn Fein resigned from power-sharing, meaning the DUP also lost their positions.

The elections are an attempt to elect a fresh government which will be willing to resurrect power-sharing. If this does not happen, Northern Ireland may have to be ruled directly from London in lieu of devolution.