No surprises so far in the Northern Assembly elections

Senior unionists Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds of the DUP and Reg Empey of the UUP have been elected on the first count.

Senior unionists Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds of the DUP and Reg Empey of the UUP have been elected on the first count.

Sinn Féin looks to have increased its share of the vote with former Lord Mayor Alex Maskey winning a seat in south Belfast.

Party President Gerry Adams has held his own in the west of the city and is already appealing for unity amongst the politicians.

In North Antrim, Democratic Unionist leader the Rev Ian Paisley and his son, Ian Junior, were elected.

Ulster Unionist the Rev Robert Coulter also captured a seat.

The DUP leader declared today was “a great day for Ulster”.

His son also said: “Today there has been a nail hammered very hard into the coffin of the Belfast Agreement.

“It sends a message to the SDLP and you, Mr (Mark) Durkan, that the DUP is unstoppable.”

Former Stormont Culture Arts and Leisure Minister Michael McGimpsey was elected on the first count for the Ulster Unionists in South Belfast.

Sinn Féin’s first Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alex Maskey, also performed strongly, falling 500 votes short of the quota.

However republicans were hopeful they would win a seat, either at the expense of the SDLP or the cross community Women’s Coalition.

Smaller parties were under pressure across Northern Ireland.

The Progressive Unionist Party’s two Assembly members, Billy Hutchinson and David Ervine, were facing a considerable battle to hold on to seats in North and East Belfast.

Mr Hutchinson said: “Irrespective of what happens, what we have to do is fall back, regroup and fight the next election.

“That is all we can do. We were squeezed because of the big parties in terms of the DUP and the Ulster Unionists putting up candidates.

“People didn’t vote on the basis of: here is an election, here are policies, They voted on pro and anti (Good Friday) Agreement in terms of the big parties.”

The Women’s Coalition’s Monica McWilliams was engaged in a fierce battle to hold on to her South Belfast seat, with reports from North Down suggesting Jane Morrice would struggle to keep hers.

There were also reports that Alliance Party leader David Ford was struggling in South Antrim.

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