Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams won an extraordinary 70 percent of the vote in west Belfast, outpolling his SDLP rival Alex Attwood by five-to-one.
Mr Adams took to the stage and said he was,”very, very proud, and humbled,” to be re-elected.
He thanked all those who had helped with the Sinn Féin campaign, in particular his, “brilliant election workers”.
Mr Adams also vowed to represent the whole constituency.
“It is very, very important that people have a choice. People of west Belfast certainly had a choice in this election. It is a very, very proud and humbling day for me,” he said.
Mr Adams said he would use his mandate “wisely”.
“We will represent, not just people who voted for us, but people who voted against us, and those who did not vote at all,” he said.
The DUP’s Diane Dodds won 10 per cent of the vote in the overwhelmingly nationalist constituency, defeating the UUP’s candidate Chris McGimpsey, who polled just 779 votes.
The SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell succeeded in slipping through the middle of a split unionist vote to top the South Belfast poll for the first time in his 18-year career in politics.
Mr McDonnell’s victory was seen as an unexpected boost for the SDLP and provides increased representation for nationalists in the Belfast area.
Mr McDonnell said: “In this constituency the SDLP has sent a clear message to political opponents on all sides... The people on the doorsteps have sent out a message, loud and clear.
“People want an end to direct rule. They want to control their own affairs and it beholds us all to make sure this happens as quickly as possible.”
Sinn Féin Alex Maskey’s 2,882 votes were slightly down on the party’s 2001 Westminster result amid evidence of tactical voting by republicans.
The DUP’s Nigel Dodds retained his seat in North Belfast with 13,935 votes.
Sinn Féin saw its percentage share of the vote in North Belfast increase from 25.2 per cent in 2001 to 28.6 per cent. The party’s North Belfast candidate Gerry Kelly won 8,747 votes.
The constituency is now set up for a straight fight between Mr Kelly and Mr Dodds at the next Westminster election.
Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly said: “Although we have had a unionist seat in North Belfast for 83 years, times are changing - we are now coming after that seat.”
The DUP’s Peter Robinson ruled out any hope of a power sharing executive with Sinn Féin after he retained his East Belfast parliamentary seat with nearly half of the entire vote.
Mr Robinson’s 15,152 share of the vote meant he was nearly 6,000 votes ahead of his nearest rival, Ulster Unionist Sir Reg Empey.
Mr Robinson accused the UUP of having ‘gifted’ the South Belfast and Fermanagh/South Tyrone seats to nationalists by refusing to enter into a unionist pact.
Mr Robinson continued with his sideswipe at the UUP by thanking the ‘decent’ people of east Belfast for returning him with an increased majority - a jibe aimed at the Ulster Unionist election slogan that claimed ‘decent people vote UUP’.
There was no surprise when sitting MP in west Tyrone, Pat Doherty, won a comfortable majority of more than 5,000 over independent Dr Kieran Deeny.
Deeny had been backed by some unionists in a futile effort to wrest the seat back from Sinn Féin after the party’s breakthrough four years ago.
Mr Doherty said he was “delighted to be back representing the great people of West Tyrone”.
“We have to look to the future,” he said.
Mr Doherty said the restoration of devolution was essential “particularly with regard to the hospital issue which hangs over West Tyrone”.
More than 3,000 votes went missing in the Mid-Ulster poll last night after officials said two ballot boxes were mistakenly removed in the belief they were empty.
Sitting MP Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness was an estimated 10,000 votes ahead of his nearest rival Ian McCrea of the DUP, with the SDLP’s Patsy Mc Glone on approximately 8,000 votes.
A spokeswoman for the electoral office said the two missing ballot boxes were never out of the possession of election officials.
The boxes were found unsealed in the back of a lorry on the outskirts of Derry.
As expected, McGuinness was declared elected following a recount.
Election officials said the boxes had simply been misplaced. But Sinn Féin director of elections Francie Molloy said his party had raised the issue with the electoral commission.
He said that the missing votes amounted to 3,500 votes and that Sinn Féin was concerned that they had left the count centre and were not sealed when they were found.
“We are particularly concerned about how this happened, about the security of the ballot boxes and about the impact this may have on the local election counts next week,” he said.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan has held onto his party’s seat in Foyle despite a strong challenge from Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin.
While his vote did not equal the huge personal vote of John Hume, it was much higher than some had predicted -- boosted in part by thousands of unionists ‘lending’ their vote to Durkan.
Sinn Féin’s Mr McLaughlin described Mr Durkan’s victory as “remarkable”.
Bizarrely, the unmistakeable Hume -- who held the Foyle seat since the constituency was established in 1983 -- was refused access to the election count.
NEWRY AND ARMAGH
Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy declared himself the first Irish republican to represent Newry and Armagh after wiping out the field in the former SDLP stronghold.
And he said his first objective would be to demand his party’s right to be represented in the Dublin parliament.
The Assembly member polled more than 20,965 votes, 41 per cent of the total poll and represented a swing of more than 12,000 on the last Westminster poll when the SDLP’s Seamus Mallon retained the seat. Mr Murphy, who dedicated his victory to his late father, said the win was a huge endorsement of Sinn Féin’s peace strategy.
Further west, sitting Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew extended her majority from a wafer-thin 53 to a commanding 4,000 in Fermanagh/South Tyrone
“I’m thrilled and honoured and so proud to represent this historic constituency Fermanagh and South Tyrone again,” she said, as she arrived to rapturous applause.
“I am mindful that yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands, so it is a very humbling experience to be here again.”
Mrs Gildernew said the election had been a good one for Sinn Féin despite the many difficulties the party had faced in recent months.
As predicted, veteran South Down MP Eddie McGrady held his seat for the SDLP, fighting off a growing threat from Sinn Féin.
His majority of around 14,000 in the 2001 election was cut to around 9,000, as Ms Ruane continued to build on the work of the previous Sinn Féin challenger, Mick Murphy.
David Trimble’s career ground to a halt in what came as a massive shock to the party. However, most pundits had backed the DUP challenger David Simpson to take the seat amid a general meltdown for the UUP.
“We weren’t getting a sense of this from the doorsteps,” said one party worker.
Simpson, who got to within 2,000 votes of Trimble in 2001, said he was humbled the people of Upper Bann had given him a mandate to represent them.
“Push-over unionism has gone forever. What people here want is consistent representation,” said Mr Simpson.
Outside the Banbridge count centre - the scene of a nasty aftermath four years’ ago - a huge crowd of DUP supporters made their presence felt by playing on lambegs, drowning out a speech by David Trimble which was effectively his resignation.
Trimble, clearly emotional as he was swept aside after fifteen years, said there was still a strong UUP base in the constituency and there was something to build on.
He said he was proud of his party’s record and said he trusted the DUP to safeguard that past.
As Trimble was spirited away from Banbridge Leisure Centre a beaten man, DUP leader Dr Paisley and Nigel Dodds arrived to help carry Simpson shoulder high in front of rejoicing supporters.
The DUP’s Iris Robinson won a massive 13,049 majority in Strangford. Mrs Robinson won the seat in 2001 by just over 1,000 votes.
The wife of DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said yesterday: “The transformation of this constituency from one dominated by the Ulster Unionist Party to one of the strongest DUP seats in Northern Ireland is quite remarkable.”
Ian Paisley raced home in his native north Antrim with more than 54 per cent of the vote and a pledge to capitalise on his increased political power.
More surprising was the runner up - Sinn Féin’s Philip McGuigan, whose 7,000 votes took him ahead of the SDLP and Ulster Unionists.
Mr McGuigan said his result reflected the “continuing confidence” of nationalism in north Antrim and called on Mr Paisley to respect his mandate, as Sinn Féin would respect that of the DUP. He said the Sinn Féin vote could only continue to rise in the future.
Mr Paisley walked out of the Ballymoney count centre as Mr McGuigan made his speech.
The same count centre also saw Gregory Campbell safely retain his seat for the DUP with an increased majority. Former RUC reservist and Orange Order member Billy Leonard polled well for Sinn Féin.
The DUP also romped home in East Antrim, as the newly elected MP Sammy Wilson took almost half of the vote. Mr Wilson’s success was a significant boost for the DUP, especially when this seat had been billed as one of the closest contests prior to the election.
He beat Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs by almost 7,000 votes - an increase of almost 15 per cent from the 2001 election where Mr Wilson was defeated by only 128 votes.
Ulster Unionist David Burnside launched a stinging attack on his party leadership yesterday after being ousted as MP for South Antrim by the DUP’s William McCrea.
He bizarrely welcomed the result because his party had lost the trust of the electorate.
“I am pleased with the message that has been sent out in Ulster. I am pleased with the election result,” he said.
“It speaks for the Ulster unionist people. We have had enough of the appeasement and double standards.”
Further south, a triumphant Jeffrey Donaldson claimed victory with a huge majority over his Ulster Unionist rival, consolidating his position within the DUP.
The former Ulster Unionist MP switched parties in 2004, weeks after the assembly elections, and now enjoys one of the largest majorities in the British parliament.
Lady Sylvia Hermon was returned as the only UUP MP with 50.4 per cent of the vote in affluent North Down, reduced from a 56 per cent share in 2001. Her closest rival, the DUP’s Peter Weir, polled 11,324 votes.
Lady Hermon said: “One seat is a wonderful victory. Many thanks to all who came out yesterday. It was a day when those who would have traditionally voted Alliance or the SDLP came out in support of Hermon the Ulster Unionist candidate. As long as I’m standing, there will be an Ulster Unionist Party.”