Live #ElectionNI: Sinn Fein snap SDLP's safest seat in Foyle

Live #ElectionNI: Sinn Fein snap SDLP's safest seat in Foyle

    Story so far:

  • Sinn Fein defeat the SDLP in Foyle
  • Paul Maskey retains Belfast West for Sinn Fein
  • Democratic Unionist Jim Shannon holds majority in Strangford
  • Jeffrey Donaldson holding Lagan Valley

  • Reports of high turnout in battleground constituencies

Update 03:15am: Sinn Fein has pulled off a sensational scalp by defeating the SDLP in Foyle. Amid scenes of disbelief at the count centre, Elisha McCallion - herself shaking with adrenaline - beat outgoing MP Mark Durkan by a slim 169 votes. It was a historic and ground-breaking performance in what was the SDLP's safest seat.

Update 02:45am:In an unsurprising victory, Paul Maskey romped over the line to retain Belfast West for Sinn Fein.

Update 02:39am:Democratic Unionist Jim Shannon has celebrated his phenomenal majority in Strangford by saying it was time to consider all unionists standing under the one banner.

With a margin of victory of close to 20,000 votes, the former soldier said: "I think the people of Strangford would like to see one unionist party."

Update 02:27am:Northern Ireland's longest-serving MP has been returned again, with Jeffrey Donaldson holding Lagan Valley.

Update 01:21am: Three MPs retain their seats as the first Northern Ireland results have been declared.

Sylvia Hermon, an independent, had her majority in North Down.

Jim Shannon and Jeffrey Donaldson, both DUP candidates, won larger majorities in Strangford and Lagan Valley.

Counting is continuing for Northern Ireland's 17 other seats.

Keep up to date on our interactive map as results roll in

Update 01:21am: Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams made clear there was "no danger whatsoever" of his party ditching its abstentionist policy, even if its seats become crucial in the final shake-down.

Mr Adams also said he could not see Prime Minister Theresa May surviving in her post.

[social]https://twitter.com/GerryAdamsSF/status/872966629046538242[/social]

Update 11.21pm: South Antrim incumbent MP Danny Kinahan of the UUP said it is a UUP/ DUP battle and is going to be a "very, very close call".

Update 10.01pm: The polls have closed in the General Election in Northern Ireland.

Counting will commence at seven venues once ballot boxes have been collected from the North's 619 voting centres.

The first results are expected around 1am.

Voter turnout across Northern Ireland has been reportedly steady through General Election day despite inclement weather sweeping large parts of the region.

Media in the North are reporting particularly high turnout in battleground constituencies

Live #ElectionNI: Sinn Fein snap SDLP's safest seat in Foyle

Mandy Hassan, assistant area electoral officer for north Antrim and mid Ulster, on route to Rathlin Island, off the north east coast of Northern Ireland, with the ballot box containing the votes of the island's population of just over 100 people

With two hours to go before the polls close, voters were continuing to brave the rain to cast their ballots.

The poor conditions has placed a question mark over whether the relatively high turnout of 64.8% in March's Assembly election will be replicated.

Live #ElectionNI: Sinn Fein snap SDLP's safest seat in Foyle

Alliance candidate for West Belfast Sorcha Eastwood casts her vote in the 2017 General Election, with her husband, Dale Shirlow, at a polling station in Lisburn

Keep an eye on our live results tracker throughout the night while the results to watch out for (timings approximate) are included at the bottom of this story

Political leaders in Northern Ireland have cast their ballots as the North takes to the polls once again.

Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster voted near her home in Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh, while Sinn Fein's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill marked her ballot paper close to her home village of Clonoe in Co Tyrone.

"Make sure you vote today to ensure NI has a strong team of MPs standing up for you," Mrs Foster tweeted.

Outside the polling station, Mrs O'Neill said she was confident Sinn Fein could build on the momentum of its successful Assembly election in March.

"This is a chance for the electorate to come out and take a stand against Tory cuts and Brexit," she said.

Live #ElectionNI: Sinn Fein snap SDLP's safest seat in Foyle

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann voted in Kells, Co Antrim, with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Alliance leader Naomi Long due to vote later on Thursday in Derry and Belfast respectively.

The election is the seventh time voters have cast a ballot in Northern Ireland in three years.

The poll comes just three months after the snap Assembly election triggered by the collapse of powersharing.

In the 2015 general election, the DUP won eight seats, Sinn Fein four, the SDLP three, the UUP two, with one independent unionist returned.

A formal pact struck between the DUP and UUP two years ago was not replicated this time round, though both parties did step aside in certain battleground seats to maximise the pro-Union vote.

Meanwhile, a mooted "anti-Brexit" pact between pro-Remain parties such as the Greens, SDLP and Sinn Fein failed to materialise.

Despite the largely uneventful campaign, at least six of the 18 seats are set to be tightly fought.

Three Belfast constituencies - South, East and North - along with South Down, South Antrim and Fermanagh and South Tyrone could all go down to the wire.

Counting will take place at seven centres across the region, with results expected during the early hours of Friday.

Key times on #ElectionNI night

1.30am

North Belfast: DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds is expected to hold on, but could face a stiff challenge from new Sinn Fein candidate, John Finucane. South Belfast: The SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell received the lowest share of the vote of any MP in the last general election and is very vulnerable in this four-way fight also involving Alliance, the DUP and Sinn Fein.

2am

The East Belfast tussle between Alliance leader Naomi Long and the DUP's Gavin Robinson has been too close to call. Long took the seat from previous DUP leader Peter Robinson in 2010, but she lost it to Gavin Robinson five years later. The Foyle result should be in around the same time. Sinn Fein overtook the SDLP here for the first time in the 2017 Assembly election, and pundits will be watching for evidence of unionists voting tactically for Mark Durkan.

2.15am

The UUP's Danny Kinahan could be pushed out by the DUP's Paul Girvan. The seat has flipped between the two parties in the past, but the Ulster Unionists are desperate to hold the seat, one of only two they have.

3.30am

South Down: Sinn Fein overtook the SDLP here in the Assembly election, but the SDLP's Margaret Ritchie can count on unionist tactical votes to help her. But will it be enough?

5am

Fermanagh & South Tyrone: Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew is hoping to win back the seat from the UUP's Tom Elliott in this knife-edge vote. While unionists have united behind the agreed candidate, republicans have thrown everything into winning the seat back.

The final seats should be declared just before lunchtime on Friday.

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