Democratic Unionists, Sinn Fein keep grip on N.Ireland power

Jim Wells claims vindication from South Down electorate after ‘darkest days of my life

Sinn Fein, which has been in power with the DUP for the past decade, was badly beaten on its home turf by Gerry Carroll, the first person elected to the Assembly for People Before Profit, an All-Ireland anti-austerity party.

Elsewhere the Foyle constituency which centres on the city of Londonderry the battle of the two nationalist leaders saw Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness top the first preferences a mere 37 votes ahead of the SDLP's Colum Eastwood, but both would have to wait until the seventh stage to be elected McGuinness having seen one of his party running mates eliminated and one elected in the previous rounds.

Paul Girvan topped the poll with 5,014 votes, missing the quota by just six votes on the first count and was followed by Pamela Cameron at the fifth count and finally Trevor Clarke, who got over the line late into Friday evening.

The two seat pick-up by the socialist People Before Profit Alliance was a remarkable feat for a party with no previous representation in the chamber.

Traditional Unionist Voice had party leader Jim Allister staring over the shoulder of all his candidates, including his own, on their election posters.

Losing out was former SDLP MLA Sean Rogers and Independent MLA John McCallister, the former NI21 deputy leader, whose party imploded at last year's Westminster election.

The result leaves the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein sharing control of the 108-member assembly.

Former DUP health minister Jim Wells, who was embroiled in a series of controversies in the last term, was also re-elected in South Down.

Sinn Fein's Culture Arts and Leisure Minister Caral Ni Chuilin was also returned for another term in North Belfast, as was Gerry Kelly.

The poll was the first chance to vote for people born after the historic Good Friday Agreement.

Alliance is also on course to return to the Assembly with the same number of seats it had last time round - eight.

The turnout had dipped slightly from the last assembly election at 54.91 per cent compared to 55.64 per cent in 2011.

Former agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew, who left the assembly to serve as an MP, is also returning to Stormont after her election for Sinn Féin in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

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