day two | 

Sinn Fein on course to be largest party in NI local elections as counting resumes

Three of 11 councils complete counts overnight

Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill (left) and President Mary Lou McDonald at Belfast City Hall as the results come in for the Northern Ireland local elections (Liam McBurney/PA)© Liam McBurney

Counting is resuming in the local government election, as the new shape of Northern Ireland’s council chambers begins to emerge.

On Saturday morning, 157 of the 462 seats had still to be filled.

Already a clear picture is forming with Sinn Fein on course to become the largest party in local government.

With 305 seats filled by Saturday morning, Sinn Fein had 102 councillors, with the DUP on 85.

Alliance had 41, the Ulster Unionists 34, the SDLP 24, with 19 others.

Three of the 11 councils finished counting overnight. Lisburn and Castlereagh was first to finish, followed by Mid Ulster. Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon went on to 4.30am with a nail-biting finish between Sinn Fein and Alliance for the last seat in Portadown.

The general pattern around voter turnout appeared to be up slightly in areas which would be regarded as predominantly nationalist/republican and down slightly in areas viewed as unionist majority.

It is the first electoral test for the parties since last year's Assembly election and takes place against the backdrop of the Stormont stalemate, with the powersharing institutions not operating as part of a DUP protest against post-Brexit trading arrangements.

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