Shape of Stormont to be settled

A tense battle for final seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly election will today decide the make-up of the next Stormont government.

There was major controversy over delays that hit counts across the region yesterday, but it eventually became clear the DUP and Sinn Fein had cemented their dominance of the unionist and nationalist blocs.



The prospect of poor results for the Ulster Unionists, and to a lesser extent the SDLP, left it unclear how the two smaller parties would be ranked when the final picture has emerged.



The cross-community Alliance Party seemed set for gains and secured the symbolic boost of topping the poll in South Belfast.



Around midnight the state of the parties showed the DUP had won 18 seats, Sinn Fein 14, the UUP three, the SDLP three and the Alliance party three.



DUP leader Peter Robinson said: "It is very pleasing and rewarding to hear that right across the province our candidates are doing so well because they put a lot of work into it.



"We didn't ask for a mandate from the people to enhance the standing of the Democratic Unionist Party, we asked for a mandate to keep Northern Ireland moving forward."



Mr Robinson romped home in East Belfast despite having lost the constituency's Westminster seat in the general election.



His career was rocked last year by the revelations that his wife and former MP Iris Robinson had an affair with a teenager and had secured loans from developers to help her lover set up a business.



The DUP leader has since made a major political recovery, underlined by his East Belfast revival.



Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness who was elected with ease in Mid Ulster, said there was "considerable dismay" over the delay in vote counting across constituencies.



Electoral staff blamed the pressure of having to count Assembly votes, local council ballots, plus votes cast in the UK-wide AV referendum.



In a sign of the degree to which counting had stalled, the AV announcement was to be delayed until the early hours of Saturday morning, drastically missing its target time and trailing the rest of the UK.



On the Assembly results, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the smaller UUP and SDLP had tried to criticise the Stormont power-sharing government, despite being part of it, and appeared to have been punished by voters.



He added: "I think the problem for the SDLP and the UUP is that rather than joining in the Executive, keeping their own particular identity and working with the rest of us, they tried to cast themselves very artificially as being in government and opposition at the same time. That doesn't work."



The Assembly results came in against the background of a low voter turnout.



In the 2007 Assembly election the DUP took 36 seats, Sinn Fein 28, the Ulster Unionists 18, the SDLP 16 and the cross-community Alliance Party took seven.



But with each of the 18 constituencies returning six Assembly members, the battle for the last seat will prove crucial in determining the final make-up of the next Stormont administration.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has over 40 years ...

Recruitment Genius: Weekend Factory Operatives

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is curr...

Recruitment Genius: FP&A Analyst

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading acquirer and m...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fully qualified electricians re...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific