Unionists and Sinn Fein accused of election 'carve-up'
Instead of the political fireworks often generated in Northern Ireland contests, the current campaign has been one of unprecedented dullness – voters will go to the polls tomorrow against predictions of a particularly low turnout.
Even the outside possibility that a republican surge might give Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness enough seats to become First Minister has failed to produce real alarm among Protestant voters.
With major constitutional issues fading into the background, most campaign debate has centred on bread and butter issues which are not usually to the fore in Northern Ireland contests: health and education have been prominent.
The results are expected to consolidate the positions of the two largest parties, the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein, which have formed a partnership that has come to dominate local politics.
The close relationship that has developed between the two has led to complaints from smaller parties that they have together engineered a "carve-up" of power. During the campaign the big two have carefully avoided clashing with each other, concentrating instead on attacking their opponents.
The Assembly has contributed to a growing sense of stability during its four-year term. But it has also been criticised as cumbersome and slow-moving, leading many of the parties to call for reforms to its structure.
The fact that no supporters of violent republican groups are fighting the election is taken as a recognition of the fact that, with their limited support, they would attract a humiliatingly small number of votes.
One of the few incidents of note during the campaign came several days ago when the First Minister, Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionists, over-balanced and toppled into his fish pond.
Well known as an enthusiast for koi carp, as he called for help, he said his family "either chortled and convulsed, or searched for insurance policies". He added: "Responses about slippery slopes, 'carping' on about issues and expressions of concern about my fish do not meet my need for sympathy."
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the workshops of this Renaissance city?
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
- 1 Tim Sherwood challenges Daniel Levy to set out vision for Tottenham Hotspur’s future
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 #Teamnigella: It’s the only side to be on
- 5 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- < Previous
- Next >
£40000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits : Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer (WPF...
£45000 - £65000 per annum + London: Harrington Starr: Senior Automation QA Eng...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Year 6 Teacher - Gilli...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Teacher of English - S...