Sinn Fein became the first nationalist party to win the largest number of seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly in its 101-year history.

Voters flocked to polling stations to elect 90 new members of the Legislative Assembly, with Sinn Fein gaining the lion’s share.

According to the results of the counting of votes early on Sunday morning, the final results showed that Sinn Fein won 27 seats, pushing the Allied Democratic Party (DUP), which has 25, to second place.

Michel O’Neill, the party’s vice president, is now set to become the country’s first nationalist first minister.

Speaking earlier in her declaratory speech in Magerafelt, Ms O’Neill said: “Today is a very significant moment of change.

“Today opens a new era, which, in my opinion, gives us all the opportunity to reconsider the relationship in this society on the basis of justice, equality and social justice.

“Regardless of religious, political or social background, my commitment is to make politics work.”

Read more about the 2022 local elections

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, congratulated Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou MacDonald and Mrs O’Neill on a “truly historic victory”.

The DUP has lost union support due to its response to Brexit and trade agreements with regard to Northern Ireland, and this has led to a split vote between the country’s three trade unions.

Stormont is depends on the separation of powers between the nationalist parties (those who want the unity of Ireland) and the unionists (those who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK) and the DUP had previously indicated they could boycott the government rather than see the first nationalist minister.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brendan Lewis said he called on the parties to form an executive branch as soon as possible.

He said the people of Northern Ireland deserve “stable and accountable local government”.

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Shin Fein becomes the largest party in the NI Assembly

Mr Lewis added that in the coming days he would meet with all party leaders and would urge them to rebuild Stormont’s institutions “as soon as possible”.

Formerly the biggest party in Stormont, DUP resigned as first minister in February in protest of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Due to the rules of separation of powers, the move forced Ms. O’Neill to resign as well.

Sheen Fein's deputy leader Michelle O'Neill is responding to her election in Central Ulster at the Northern Ireland Assembly's counting center at the Meadowbank sports arena in Magerofelt, Londonderry.  Photo date: Friday, May 6, 2022
Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill reacts to her election

DUP MP Ian Paisley said there would be no transfer of government to Northern Ireland, while issues related to the Northern Ireland Protocol remain unresolved.

Read more:
What is the distribution of power in Northern Ireland?
Who is Sinn Fein’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill?

Speaking at the Jordanstown Countdown Center on Friday, Mr Paisley said: “I think the elephant in the room is a protocol.

“Until we solve this problem, we can hold any election we want, but there will be no government until we solve this problem with the protocol.

“I hope that today the government will focus on the fact that now they must solve this problem not only for trade unionists, but for everyone. The protocol is harmful to all of us.”

The stalemate will increase tensions between Westminster and Brussels, and the UK is pushing for all options to remain on the table – including the possibility of unilaterally abandoning elements of the post-Brexit agreement.

This could cause a serious breakdown in relations between the UK and the European Union.

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