Peter Robinson bounces back in Northern Ireland elections
The Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein yesterday consolidated their positions as the dominant forces in Northern Ireland politics by scoring well in elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
As in the previous assembly, they will together hold more than half the seats in the devolved government. This means the DUP leader, Peter Robinson, is again expected to become First Minister, with Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein as his deputy.
The solid DUP performance confirms the remarkable recovery of Mr Robinson, who last year lost his Westminster seat as Protestant voters punished him in the wake of the Commons expenses scandal. This time he bounced back with a strong personal vote.
During the election campaign he and Mr McGuinness behaved with unusual courtesy towards each other, concentrating their fire on the smaller unionist and nationalist parties. This was a continuation of the pattern, established over the past year, of the two parties working closely in the assembly in what other parties criticised as a virtual two-party government.
Both the DUP and Sinn Fein reject criticisms that this represents a "sectarian carve-up", maintaining that it amounts to a genuine sharing of power as the biggest representatives of the two communities.
In Northern Ireland terms such close co-operation is most unusual, but the election result contained no sign of any backlash against it. This makes it probable that the partnership will continue for the assembly's four-year term. At 54 per cent, the turnout was unusually low and debate continues on whether this indicates voter apathy or a level of approval or both.
The other two large parties, the Ulster Unionists and the moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, fought uncomfortable campaigns which attracted criticisms of their leaders.
The Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, said the UUP and SDLP had not worked with other parties, maintaining: "They tried to cast themselves very artificially as being in government and opposition at the same time. That doesn't work."
Mr Robinson suggested, presumably tongue in cheek, that turnout had been kept low by election day showers which had followed a long spell of dry weather. Water certainly played a part at one count, when hairdryers had to be used to separate soggy ballot papers.
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...