First results in Northern Ireland Assembly election (BBC News Northern Ireland)

Results are flooding in as the first members of the new Northern Ireland Assembly are elected.
Sinn Féin’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill and Alliance Party leader Naomi Long are among 27 confirmed seats.
A total of 64.8% of the electorate voted – up 10 points on last year.
The first big shock of the election was that long-standing SDLP assembly member Alex Attwood lost his seat in west Belfast.
Long-standing SDLP assembly member Alex Attwood failed to secure his seat in west Belfast
Image caption
Long-standing SDLP assembly member Alex Attwood failed to secure his seat in west Belfast
The election – the second in 10 months – was called after the resignation of former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness following a dispute over a botched heating scheme.

A total of 1,254,709 people were eligible to vote for 228 candidates competing for 90 seats in 18 constituencies. The turnout was up across the board.
The final make-up of the new 90-seat Assembly is unlikely to be clear until Saturday afternoon.

Analysis: BBC News NI Political Correspondent Enda McClafferty

We have turned the clock back with the level of voter interest in this election.
A turnout in the mid 60s was the norm 20 years ago.
Was it the heat generated from RHI or the tribal campaign fought by the parties that brought the voters out?
Either way, it shows the electorate can be turned on if the right buttons are pushed.

The snap election was called after the collapse of a coalition led by Arlene Foster’s DUP and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.
Mr McGuinness resigned over Mrs Foster’s refusal to step aside as first minister pending an inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, which could cost the Northern Ireland tax payer £490m.
Alliance leader Naomi Long celebrates her successImage copyrightPACEMAKER
Image caption
Alliance leader Naomi Long celebrates her success
Under Northern Ireland’s power-sharing agreement, the government must be run by Irish nationalists and unionists together.
This assembly election saw one significant change: The number of assembly members has been reduced from 108 to 90 which will mean each constituency returning five MLAs each and not six,
The number of MLAs has been cut in order to reduce the cost of politics. Forty-eight fewer candidates stood in this election than in May last year.

Opinion polls ahead of the election indicated the DUP would lose votes but remain the largest party, followed by Sinn Féin.

The largest unionist and nationalist parties after the election will have three weeks to form a power-sharing government to avoid devolved power returning to the British parliament at Westminster for the first time in a decade.

The BBC News NI website will carry the latest election results and analysis on Friday and throughout the weekend.
There will also be special election programmes running on BBC Radio Ulster from midday, on BBC Radio Foyle from 15:00 GMT and on BBC One Northern Ireland at 13:30 GMT.


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