Voting is continuing in the final hour of this year’s General Election. Across Northern Ireland voters are braving a cold and wet day to travel to more than 1,000 polling stations to cast their ballots to decide 18 constituency races.
Early reports suggest polling stations have been busy across the day and particularly in the final hours before the polls close at 10pm. At the last General Election in 2017, Northern Ireland saw a 65% turnout.
The true figure this year will not be known until after the polls close and the ballot boxes are opened for counting. Northern Ireland’s political leaders cast their votes earlier in the day.
Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster voted in Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh, a constituency where she is supporting a rival unionist as part of pro-Union link-up to try to unseat Sinn Fein.
Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill cast her ballot 40 miles away in her home village of Clonoe in Co Tyrone. She called in to have a chat with party workers who have based themselves in a caravan outside the polling station all day.
In several seats, the republican party has joined forces with fellow pro-Remain parties the SDLP and Greens to maximise the chances of defeating DUP Brexiteers. SDLP leader Colum Eastwood was accompanied by wife Rachael and their children Maya and Rosa as he voted in Derry.
While Mr Eastwood’s party has stood aside to help a Sinn Fein candidate in North Belfast – a move that has been reciprocated by Sinn Fein in South Belfast – the parties are going head-to-head in Derry in what is set to be a close-run battle for the Foyle seat.
Elsewhere, Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken arrived at Upper Ballyboley Primary School in East Antrim to cast his ballot along with wife Beth.
Alliance leader Naomi Long voted shortly afterwards in East Belfast. Mrs Long, accompanied by her husband Michael, is hoping for a repeat of her famous victory in 2010 when she dethroned Stormont’s then-first minister Peter Robinson.
One of the races which has attracted the most attention is North Belfast where the DUP’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds faces close competition from Sinn Fein’s John Finucane in a race which Alliance candidate Nuala McAllister is also contesting.
Both men appeared upbeat throughout the day as they visited polling stations and made their final efforts to secure support. There are 102 candidates standing in the election, with 1,293,971 eligible voters able to cast their ballots.
Counting will begin at four centres in Belfast, Magherafelt, Omagh and Bangor shortly after the polls close, with the first results expected around 1am.
The DUP is hoping to return with at least the 10 MPs they won in 2017 – a result that landed them a pivotal role as Westminster kingmakers and led to their confidence and supply deal with the last Conservative Government.
Sinn Fein won seven seats at the last General Election and have said they hope to make gains on Thursday, while the 18th outgoing MP, independent Sylvia Hermon, has stepped down.
The UUP, SDLP and Alliance are all hoping to make a return to the green benches in the House of Commons.