Weekly Updates

Top 7 at 7am Assembly Election Round-up
6th March 2017
1. Growing in power

As the Sinn Fein time arrives at Stormont today they will have a swagger in their step, having increased their vote considerably since last May, returning 27 members, with losses in East Antrim and Upper Bann being made up for with an extra seat in Fermanagh South Tyrone. The party manages the increased vote extremely well in the constituencies where they ran 3 or even 4 candidates, and now will face up to the DUP with the knowledge that just over 1000 votes separate the two parties.

2. Taking a hit

No amount of spin can take away from the fact that, just 10 months after the parties biggest ever election victory, they lost 10 seats, including a number of big names. Now some of their members are blaming everyone from the BBC to the UUP, while every media interview includes a question about Arlene’s future as leader. The RHI inquiry still has some way to go, and the chances of Sinn Fein and the SDLP accepting her in the Executive Office while that is going on are slim.

3. Late night drama

On Friday evening at the count things looked bleak for the SDLP, but as midnight approached the outworking of cross community voting and opposition co-operation kicked in as UUP transfers gained a seat for Pat Catney in Lagan Valley and retuned John Dallat in East Derry. The 12 seats the party won is a net gain given the reduction in seats and now they will have to decide whether to use this extra weight to go into the Executive or take the lead role in opposition.

4. Shrinking appeal

The UUP hoped to make considerable gains in this election, right across the 18 constituencies, but by the end of the first count it was clear that the party was facing significant losses. Rosemary Barton holding on in Fermanagh South Tyrone thanks to SDLP transfers means that she is their only MLA west of the Bann and even the gain in East Antrim will be little consolation to the party who is now seeking a new leader.

5. Breaking new ground

Naomi Long will be a happy leader after returning all eight sitting MLAs, and making gains right across the board. The party has faced difficulties making any gains outside the greater Belfast area, but they saw a jump in their vote in many constituencies, most notably in South Down where they were close to making a gain. It remains to be seen if they can keep this upward trajectory and turn it into seats, perhaps picking up where the UUP have lost.

6. Mixed fortunes

It was a mixed day for the smaller parties and independents on Friday. The Greens held onto their two seats, as did Claire Sugden, who has cemented her place in the Assembly and will be looking for the Justice Ministry again. In West Belfast and Derry the People Before Profit surge of last year is a distant memory, with Eamon McCann losing and Gerry Carrol having to wait on his running mates transfers. And in Strangford former DUP Minister Jonathan Bell didn’t make any impact on the outcome, where the DUP held their three seats.

7. What next?

The big question is 'what now?' The parties will begin talks today, where one or the other will have to budge on the issue of Arlene Foster being nominated as First Minister. The language used by all parties over the weekend suggest that they have a common goal of getting things up and running again, but with both the British and Irish governments distracted by Brexit they may not have a lot of patience for a protracted stand off.

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