DUP and Sinn Fein tighten grip on NI assembly

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein have consolidated their hold on the Northern Ireland assembly.

The DUP secured 36 of the 108 assembly seats and Sinn Fein gained 28 representatives.

The DUP increased their share of the vote by over four per cent and Sinn Fein by over two per cent.

The results would give the DUP control of four ministries in the assembly and Sinn Fein would have three if power sharing is established.

The parties have until March 26th to agree on the formation of a power-sharing executive at Stormont.

Tony Blair said the results showed it was time to “get down to the business” and called on politicians on all sides to start addressing the “bread and butter issues” of water rates, education and the economy that dominated the election campaigns.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern backed the prime minister’s call adding: “I suppose it is the first time in modern times that Northern Ireland has been able to have that kind of an election where it was all about the economic issues.”

The DUP’s Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuiness are expected to become first minister and deputy first minister respectively if the power sharing executive is established.

Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain told CNN it was time for politicians to “get into power, or shut up shop”.

“There’s never been a deadline like this, where either they devolve, either they take power, sharing government together, or it all shuts up and dissolves and Stormont closes and I take power back again,” he said.

He met with representatives from the DUP and Sinn Fein on Friday to discuss the next steps towards devolution.

Mr McGuiness told reporters in Belfast that if power sharing did not take place, “then the assembly should be abolished, assembly members should not get one penny paid and both governments should immediately announce the joint partnership arrangements to take this forward”.

The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) also lost nine seats, leaving them with 18 and the SDLP had 16 seats after losing two.

The UUP will lead two ministries and the SDLP will head one, if power sharing is established.

The non-sectarian Alliance Party won an extra seat, giving them seven representatives and the Green Party won its first seat at Stormont when Brian Wilson was elected in North Down.

Turnout was high across the six counting centres in the province, ranging between 55 and 70 per cent.

Liberal Democrat Northern Ireland spokesman Lembit Opik described the high turnout as “positive” and said the election of Anna Lo, the first ethnic minority candidate to win a seat in the province, was a “triumph of diversity”.