Challenging path for Ulster ruling alliance, following election results

07 March, 2017, 00:50 | Author: Kristopher Anderson
  • Michelle O'Neil of Sinn Féin launches the party manifesto.     PA  Deborah McAleese

Turnout was highest in Sinn Fein's traditional working-class Catholic power bases.

Michelle O'Neill, who took over from the retiring McGuinness as Sinn Fein's leader in Northern Ireland, told AFP she was willing to find "a way forward" with the DUP.

Mr Brokenshire has said the primary responsibility lies with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein to use the "limited window" now open.

The outcome from Thursday's election, forced by a surprise Sinn Fein withdrawal that collapsed the previous unity government, caught other parties off guard.

He said Brexit "is a good way for Sinn Fein to reopen existing agreements and arguments - nationalists feel that those agreements have been betrayed by Brexit".

Speaking about her time as an MLA for the area, she added: "It has been an honour and a privilege to represent Mid Ulster at the Assembly since 2011, my greatest pleasure having been able to help so many local people whether at a local level in the constituency or at legislative level at Stormont".

The elections were called after she refused to stand down as first minister after overseeing an energy subsidy scheme that could cost the executive hundreds of millions of pounds.

East Belfast DUP MP Gavin Robinson raised the possibility that Mrs Foster might step aside as First Minister designate until the Renewable Heat Incentive inquiry had concluded. "I think the desire is there - it's just if they can overcome the main hurdles".

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Annette Martin, who works for the Marie Curie charity, said: "I'm not sure I expect an terrible lot, to be honest, but I still wanted to make my vote".

George Galloway has hailed the election results in Northern Ireland as "a major step towards Irish unity".

London, Dublin and Brussels have all insisted they want to keep free movement across the Irish border - an arrangement dating from its creation in the 1920s.

The Irish Republic's Prime Minister Enda Kenny was in Brussels on Thursday for talks which included the impact of Brexit on the Northern Irish peace process.

"When the talks begin on Monday, I will seek to work with other parties to create the circumstances where we cannot just get the Executive up and running, but do so in a way in which it will endure".

Northern Ireland's snap election has left the rival extremes of politics virtually neck and neck for the first time - and facing a bruising battle to put their Catholic-Protestant government back together again in an increasingly polarized landscape. "It was a vote against Brexit and for the North to have a designated special status within the European Union". Asked if he felt any threat to his unionist leanings after the election, he said: "No".

Some 228 candidates are standing to fill 90 seats. Vote counting is expected to start on Friday with final results due over the weekend.

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