History made as Sinn Féin becomes largest party in Stormont after winning most seats in NI Assembly Election

History made as Sinn Féin becomes largest party in Stormont after winning most seats in NI Assembly Election

SINN FÉIN has become the largest party in Stormont after winning the most seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly Election.

The party won 27 seats, two more than nearest rivals the DUP, ensuring the party's leader in the North, Michelle O'Neill, is on course to become First Minister.

The result is the first time in the history of Northern Ireland that Sinn Féin, or indeed any nationalist party, has won the most seats in an election.

'Great moment for equality'

The party's president, Mary Lou McDonald, congratulated O'Neill on her victory against the odds.

"Just remember, this place was organised more than a century ago to ensure that a Michelle O'Neill would never occupy the position of First Minister, so it's a great moment for equality," she said.

“It's a great moment that says beyond a shadow of a doubt that life has changed in the North, that things have changed in Ireland and that we are only going forward and we are never going back.

"It's a great day for nationalists, for republicans but [also] for the whole of society.

"It says that there is no position anywhere that excludes anybody and that anybody can aspire to the very highest office."

Alliance gains

Sinn Féin equalled its total number of seats from the 2017 election but became the largest party after the DUP lost three seats.

The nationalist party won 29.02 per cent of the first preference votes, up 1.1 per cent from 2017, while the DUP's share dropped by 6.7 per cent.

The other main unionist party, the UUP, won nine seats, down one on 2017, while the TUV retained their North Antrim seat.

Led by Jim Allister, the party saw its first preference vote share increase by 5.1 per cent.

However, the Alliance Party saw the biggest seat gain, winning 17 — nine more than in 2017.

It has now leapfrogged the UUP and the SDLP — who lost four of their 12 seats — to become the third largest party at Stormont.

'Real change'

Following her party's success, O’Neill said she was determined to 'build a better future for all'.

"This has been an historic election. An election of real change," she said.

"I will lead the Sinn Féin team to Stormont on Monday, ready to get the Executive up and running right away.

"To put money in people's pockets. To invest in our health service. And to build a better future for all."

The new Assembly must meet within eight days of the election, with the largest party nominating the First Minister and the second largest nominating the Deputy first Minister.

The formation of the Northern Ireland Executive is usually formed within six weeks of the first meeting of the Assembly, however new rules can see this period extended by up to 24 weeks.

However, the DUP have said they are unwilling to join a new administration until British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses their concerns over the Northern Ireland Protocol.