Live #ElectionNI: Tories to rely on DUP support to form government

Live #ElectionNI: Tories to rely on DUP support to form government

    The story so far:

  • RESULTS (18 seats): DUP: 10 seats; Sinn Féin: 7 seats; Final seat goes to independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon, who retains her North Down constituency;
  • Ulster Unionists and SDLP wiped off the Westminster map;
  • Sinn Féin defeat the SDLP in Foyle;
  • Paul Maskey retains Belfast West for Sinn Féin;
  • Democratic Unionist Jim Shannon holds majority in Strangford;
  • Jeffrey Donaldson holds Lagan Valley;
  • Reports of high turnout in battleground constituencies

Update 1pm: Theresa May has announced her intention to form a government with the support of the DUP, after the UK election resulted in a hung parliament in which no single party secured a majority of seats.

Update 12.30pm: Ken Livingstone, the Former Mayor of London, has said it will be difficult for the Conservatives and the DUP to come up with a "deliverable deal" on Brexit, due to differing opinions on the North.

He said the DUP are "quite difficult people to negotiate with" and that they'll want a hard Brexit but without any impact on the North.

"The fact that the Tory party is reliant on the DUP - they're quite difficult people to negotiate with. They'll want a hard Brexit without any impact on Northern Ireland," he told RTÉ's Today with Seán O'Rourke.

"It's going to be very difficult for anyone to come up with a deliverable deal. I think there's a real chance Theresa May will be pushed out, because most Tories will recognise if she's still leading into another election they could lose a lot more seats."

Live #ElectionNI: Tories to rely on DUP support to form government

Mr Livingstone said another election is very likely.

“There's a real chance of another election because this is possible the most unstable period in politics since the hung parliament in 1974. You've got Tories on 43 percent, Labour on 40. It would be a small shift and literally dozens and dozen of Tory seats will fall, and quite a lot from the Scottish National Party as well."

He said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has hushed his critics within the party and will now bring back "proper democracy" within Labour.

"We've had 18 months of press hysteria, and lies and smears, labour members stabbing him in the back but he came across to people, and that has changed Labour. Jeremy will be able to make the changes to bring back proper democracy within the party and all those embittered old Blair-ites will have to come to terms with it because they know there's no future for them outside the party."

Update 11.40am: A senior Democratic Unionist has said it is "much too early" to talk of a formal agreement with a minority Conservative government.

Jeffrey Donaldson's comments come amid mounting speculation that the two parties will come to some form of understanding that will enable the Tories to form an administration.

The pro-Brexit DUP, which returned 10 MPs to Westminster, has found itself kingmaker in the hung Parliament.

Ahead of the election, the North's largest party made clear its preference was for a Tory rather than Labour government.

DUP candidate for Lagan Valley Jeffrey Donaldson (right) following his election in Lisburn. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
DUP candidate for Lagan Valley Jeffrey Donaldson (right) following his election in Lisburn. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

In a speech, cancelled in the wake of the Manchester terror attack, Ms Foster planned to describe Jeremy Corbyn as "beyond the political pale" because of his past support for Irish republicans.

She attacked the Labour leader's credibility, including warning that it was hard to take him seriously because of his meetings with political representatives of the IRA at the height of the Troubles.

Mrs Foster was due to set out her stall at a meeting of the pro-Brexit Bruges Group in Mayfair on May 22 but pulled the speech after Ariana Grande's concert in Manchester was targeted by a suicide bomber.

Prior to the 2015 election, with the pollsters predicting a hung parliament, the DUP ruled out a potential formal coalition with the Conservatives, instead indicating its support would be offered in a confidence and supply arrangement from the opposition benches.

The DUP and Sinn Fein dealt a series of devastating blows to their rivals in the North's to emerge from the General Election stronger than ever.

The two main parties advanced as the Ulster Unionists and SDLP were wiped off the Westminster map.

Live #ElectionNI: Tories to rely on DUP support to form government

Sinn Fein's seven MPs are not part of calculations to form a government because the republican party refuse to take their seats in Westminster.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams hailed what he described as an historic result for his party.

"Sinn Fein respects the mandate we have received and our electorate who voted in such huge numbers," he said.

"Nationalists and republicans have turned their back on Westminster and accept that that centre of political gravity is now on the island of Ireland.

"The Taoiseach and DUP need to focus on restoring the political institutions.

"Theresa May sought a mandate for Brexit, austerity and the erosion of human rights. She got her comeuppance.

"The Irish government needs to seize the initiative to secure designated special status for the North as part of the Brexit negotiations."

Update 10.40am: The DUP has said it will support a government led by Theresa May. The DUP won 10 Westminster seats, and its support would allow Mrs May to form a government with a razor-thin majority or two or three seats (Kensington has yet to declare).

Update 10.25am: Gerry Adams has said the election shows nationalists in the North have turned their backs on Westminster.

The Sinn Féin leader said he also believes the result is bringing a vote on a united Ireland closer.

"(A border poll) is a matter of time…A referendum on Irish unity is an essentional part of the Good Friday Agreement," he said, adding he expected a poll on the issue within the next five years.

Gerry Adams at the Titanic exhibition centre in Belfast where the count took place. Picture: PA
Gerry Adams at the Titanic exhibition centre in Belfast where the count took place. Picture: PA

Update 10am: Talks between the DUP and the Conservatives have been taking place on a constant basis since the 2015 election delivered a small Tory majority but are expected to increase in intensity as a result of the hung parliament.

"Every day since 2015 there has been chat, and ultra chat since the referendum. And now I suppose there'll be hyper chat," a source said.

But there may be a reluctance for the DUP to engage in detailed negotiations with Mrs May if her position looks insecure.

Update 9am: The Democratic Unionists now have 10 seats in Westminster, up from eight in the last mandate.

It is understood the Conservatives are in talks with the DUP in the North.

It means Arlene Foster's party could form a part of the next parliament.

"I am upbeat," she said. "I think people have responded very well to the message that we brought them about a positive vision for the union and voting for candidates who would stand up for Northern Ireland in Westminster. I think they've responded well to that right across Northern Ireland and we've had some very good results."

Live #ElectionNI: Tories to rely on DUP support to form government

Update 6am: The North's two largest parties dealt a series of devastating blows to their rivals to emerge from the General Election stronger than ever.

The Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin made significant gains as the Ulster Unionists and SDLP were wiped off the Westminster map.

Although Sinn Féin has made clear it will not drop its abstentionist policy regardless of the final shake down in parliament, the DUP has indicated its willingness to talk with the Conservatives if they require support to form a government.

The SDLP and UUP, the two parties who together forged the Good Friday Agreement and for decades held the pre-eminent positions in the North's politics, now are without a single MP between them.

Live #ElectionNI: Tories to rely on DUP support to form government

The biggest shock of the night came in Derry where Sinn Féin captured the SDLP citadel of Foyle, the seat of former leader John Hume.

Beaten candidate Mark Durkan apologised to Mr Hume in an emotional speech but insisted the party still had a future.

Sinn Féin also took an SDLP scalp in South Down, dethroning former party leader Margaret Ritchie.

The DUP seized the last SDLP stronghold in South Belfast, wrested back South Antrim from the UUP and saw off the challenge of the Alliance Party and Sinn Féin in East and North Belfast respectively.

The counting ended with the DUP taking 10 of the North's 18 seats, Sinn Féin seven and independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon retaining her North Down constituency.

DUP leader Arlene Foster declared it a "good night for the Union".

"We are very pleased with the way in which people have reacted to the positive message of the campaign, it was about the Union, the importance of the Union, and unionists have really come out in their numbers," she said.

"We fought this election on the importance of the Union and I think people really responded to that."

Her party colleague Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who romped home in Lagan Valley, said the DUP was willing to talk with the Conservatives in the event of a hung parliament.

Sinn Féin 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 reckoning.

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

"There is no danger whatsoever of us taking our seats in the Westminster parliament," he said.

He credited Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with fighting a good campaign despite "media bias".

"I don't know how Theresa May can survive this, that's a matter for her party, of course," he said.

Update 5am: The Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin have made significant gains in the North at the expense of the region's smaller parties.

With the SDLP having lost all three seats, the Ulster Unionists shedding at least one of its two and the Alliance party failing to make the inroads it predicted, the two main parties have solidified their pre-eminence.

Sinn Féin recorded a seismic political shock by taking the SDLP's prized seat in Foyle and also captured the nationalist party's South Down stronghold.

The DUP replaced the SDLP in South Belfast, wrested back South Antrim from the UUP and saw off the challenge of the Alliance Party and Sinn Féin in East and North Belfast respectively.

Live #ElectionNI: Tories to rely on DUP support to form government

With speculation the DUP could hold an influential position at Westminster in the event of a hung parliament, party leader Arlene Foster declared it a "good night for the Union".

She said: "We'll wait to hear what the results actually are, but we are very pleased with the way in which people have reacted to the positive message of the campaign - it was about the Union, the importance of the Union, and unionists have really come out in their numbers.

"We fought this election on the importance of the Union and I think people really responded to that."

Sinn Féin 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.

"There is no danger whatsoever of us taking our seats in the Westminster parliament," he said.

He credited Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with fighting a good campaign despite "media bias".

"I don't know how Theresa May can survive this - that's a matter for her party, of course," he said.

As counting in the region concluded shortly after 4.30am, the SDLP and UUP were both left licking their political wounds after losing all of their Westminster representatives.

The final results will see the DUP return to the House of Commons with 10 MPs, including new faces Emma Little Pengelly and Paul Girvin.

Sinn Féin has also enjoyed an increased mandate, winning seven seats, while Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon was also returned - albeit with a significantly smaller majority.


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