The snap 2017 Assembly election has been a good one for Sinn Fein, with the party so far holding on to its seats in all constituencies and showing particular strength in the traditional republican heartlands.
The largest unionist party, the DUP, has avoided suffering serious damage despite being hit by repeated corruption scandals, and could hold above the 30 seat mark required to hold on to its veto in the Stormont Assembly. The future of party leader Arlene Foster is, however, increasingly in doubt amid rumours of a potential heave.
But as one in six seats were eliminated from the Assembly this year, a decimation of the weakest candidates has hit across the board with the nationalist SDLP, unionist UUP and DUP and socialist PBP all lined up to book losses amid an overall turnout of 65%, a sharp increase on last year.
In contrast, Sinn Fein looks like it could hold on to virtually all of their seats. Party campaigners said they believed that voters who have fallen away from the organisation in recent years had returned due to the party’s more hardline statements against the DUP and the ‘status quo’.
The party’s female candidates put in a particularly strong performance, with new party leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill, topping the poll in Mid-Ulster by more than 10,000 votes, and with all three SF candidates are set to be elected comfortably.
A new Sinn Fein candidate, Orlaithi Flynn, topped the poll in Belfast West where all four SF candidates are also set to be elected amid the demise of high profile SDLP candidate, Alex Attwood. Another female SF candidate, Caoimhe Archibald, has topped the poll in East Derry, the first time the party has done so.
Despite a 9% swing to Sinn Fein from the socialist People before Profit in west Belfast, their candidate, Gerry Carroll, looks to have held on to his seat. In Foyle, however, the People before Profit candidate Eamon McCann looks set to lose out as both the Sinn Fein and SDLP have put in a strong performance there.
In South Down, Sinn Fein overtook the SDLP for the first time on the back of a 7% increase in votes. Sinn Fein’s Northern Chairman Declan Kearney saw a surge in his vote tally to allow him to top the poll in South Antrim, the first time the party has done so since Mitchel McLaughlin in 2007.
On the unionist side, the DUP could be facing losses in both south Belfast and north Belfast as a result of a fall-off in loyalist votes, with high profile candidate Emma Little Pengelly set to lose her seat in the south of the city. The UUP is struggling to hold seats west of the river Bann, where the overall nationalist vote appears to be significantly up, and it is in a battle to hold seats against the DUP in the unionist heartlands east of the Bann.
In contrast, Alliance leader Naomi Long topped the poll and was elected on the first count in east Belfast. The moderate unionist party was optimistic it would hold its seats and possibly make a gain.
The following is the current seat tally after 15 of 90 seats declared: SF 7, DUP 5, Alliance 2, UUP 1. Further updates will be published here as they become available.