Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew has remarkably retained her Fermanagh-South Tyrone seat by four votes after a third recount.
Independent Rodney Connor requested a fourth recount which was refused.
A third recount started at 11am where the race between Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew and the Independent unionist Rodney Connor was too close to call.
Sinn Fein’s success in defeating Connor, a candidate agreed by both the main unionist parties as well as a well-known SDLP candidate, is a significant triumph.
The seat was famously won by hunger-striker Bobby Sands and the election took place on the day following the anniversary of his death on hunger strike in 1981.
Shortly before 3am, election officials said 21,296 votes had been counted for Mr Connor and 21,288 for Ms Gildernew and, given the difference of just eight votes, a recount was immediately called. The result of that recount put Mr Connor, with 21,295, 10 votes behind Ms Gildernew with 21,305.
The results of a second recount were announced at about 4.30am, putting Ms Gildernew ahead by two votes at 21,300 to Mr Connor’s 21,298.
The third recount showed that of a total poll of 46,083, Ms Gildernew had won 21,304 votes to Mr Connor’s 21,300. Ms Gildernew was duly declared elected.
Mr Connor, a former chief executive of Fermanagh District Council, stood as an independent after the DUP and Ulster Conservatives and Unionists (UCU) agreed to run a joint unionist candidate.
A number of senior Sinn Fein figures were at the count centre in Omagh, including party president Gerry Adams. The DUP’s Arlene Foster and other senior unionists were also in attendance.
Since won by Sands, the seat has changed hands between nationalism and unionism a number of times. Michelle Gildernew first won it in 2001, by just 53 votes. That resulted in legal challenges where there were complaints about polling stations staying open too late.
It remains unclear if this year the result will still face a legal challenge.
A further update will be carried in our full edition later today.