'new era' | 

Sinn Féin confirmed largest party at Stormont in historic election for party

The final results were declared shortly after 1am on Sunday, with all 90 MLAs now elected

Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill

Seoirse Mulgrew

Sinn Féin has won the largest number of seats in the Assembly election in what is a historic moment for the nationalist party.

The final results were declared shortly after 1am on Sunday, with all 90 MLAs now elected.

With the votes counted, Sinn Fein finished with 27 MLAs, overtaking the DUP, who have 25, to become the largest party at Stormont.

The Alliance Party finished with 17 MLAs, which is more than double its tally in 2017, the Ulster Unionists nine with the SDLP on eight.

The count ended in Foyle, where the final two MLAs were eventually confirmed after an intense count that began early on Friday.

Sinead McLaughlin was elected for the SDLP on Saturday night, with Gary Middleton taking the final seat. This completed the 90-strong line-up of MLAs, after UUP candidate Ryan McCready conceded at around 12.45am, with the count having entered its third day.

In her declaration speech in Magherafelt, Ms O'Neill said this was the start of a “new era”.

"Today represents a very significant moment of change. Today ushers in a new era which I believe presents us all with an opportunity to reimagine relationships in this society on the basis of fairness, on the basis of equality and the basis of social justice,” she said.

"Irrespective of religious, political or social backgrounds, my commitment is to make politics work.”

In a statement issued on Saturday night, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said all political parties and elected representatives must now work towards the formation of a new Executive to serve the interests of all of the people of Northern Ireland.

“It is now incumbent on all political parties and elected representatives to deliver on their mandate, through the nomination of a First and deputy First Minister and the formation of a new Executive to serve the interests of all of the people of Northern Ireland,” the statement said.

Mr Martin said a new power-sharing Executive is “vital for progress and prosperity for all in Northern Ireland”.

“Power-sharing and principles of partnership, equality and mutual respect are at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement, through which peace has been secured and progress achieved for almost 25 years,” he said.

“As a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Government will continue to work in partnership with the British Government and engage with the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland to seek and support the effective operation of all of the political institutions of the Agreement.”

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said he will be meeting with all party leaders over the coming days and will urge them to “restore the Stormont institutions at the earliest possible opportunity”.

In a statement online, Mr Lewis said: “I believe the people who have voted want a fully functioning devolved government here in Northern Ireland.”

“They want us to be dealing with the issues around the Protocol as well as making sure that politics work better to deliver across a range of domestic issues.

“It is incumbent on everyone to work to make Northern Ireland a better place and deliver on that mandate.”

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