Analysis of Northern Ireland Election results #AE17

So all the votes have been counted, the transfers shuffled and now we have up to three weeks of negotiations to see if the Northern Ireland Assembly can come together in some shape. But what was the story of the count yesterday in Northern Ireland’s second election in 10 months?

This election saw a reduction of seats in Stormont from 108 to 90, or each seat returning just 5 MLAs. The turnout was up 10% on last May at 64.8% so every party was able to claim that more people voted for them but it was how that extra 10% of voters turned out that is the real story.

The two big gainers in the vote share were Sinn Féin up 3.9% and only 1200 votes behind the DUP in the popular vote and Alliance who were up 2.1%. The SDLP and UUP had negligible shifts in vote share -0.1% and +0.3% respectively, and the DUP dropped 1.1%. But this election became a story of transfers. From the moment that the UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said he would give his second preference to the SDLP things were shaping up.

Comment was being made in a number of seats how transfers from the UUP to SDLP or vice versa was denying the DUP of seats. A number of big hitters were excluded when other candidates jumped above them as the DUP proved almost as transfer toxic as Sinn Féin has been in the past. But the other tale is also that in some cases the DUP refusal to transfer to the UUP has cost the unionists a majority in Stormont for the first time ever.

The scores on the doors after all the seats were declared just after 3am this morning were:

DUP 28, SF 27, SDLP 12, UUP 10, Alliance 8, Green 2, TUV 1, PBPA 1, Ind 1

In the end of the 18 seats that the Assembly has been reduced by 16 of those lost were by unionists; ten from the DUP six from the UUP, against only one for Sinn Féin and one for People Before Profit Alliance. The DUP have also lost the ability by themselves to lodge a petition of concern, even if they can get the TUV Jim Allister on board they are still one short of the magic number of 30.

There is a virtual dead heat in the new Assembly with 40 designating as Unionist and 39 as Nationalist and the balance of power lies with the others (Alliance, Green and PBPA) whose influence percentage rise has grown despite losing one seat.

While we know who can sit on the blue benches of the chamber, we have yet to know when or if they will be taking those seats. The next three weeks will be tense and heated, but will they result in some agreement to share power? Watch this space.

* Stephen Glenn is currently chair of Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats and a three-time Westminster candidate for the Liberal Democrats. He blogs at

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  • nigel hunter 4th Mar '17 - 1:19pm

    A good result for the Alliance. You would expect a reduction in the present climate of Brexit. To hold all seats and increase the vote, to me. is an indication that Brexit is not liked in N.I. Yes the votes will increase in all seats ‘cos of the reduction of seats and the 10% increase in turnout but it is an indication to May to tread carefully.

  • Richard Underhill 4th Mar '17 - 5:48pm

    DUP 28, UUP 10, TUV 1,
    SF 27, SDLP 12, Alliance 8, Green 2, PBPA 1, Ind 1
    The BBC should note that “Unionists” elected to the Assembly are divided into three parties which do not always agree. It is the DUP which has lost its majority and ability to veto.

  • WhatNorthern Ireland needs is a united front of the civilised parties against Sinn Fein

  • Laurence Cox 5th Mar '17 - 11:35am

    Time to revisit the Good Friday Agreement, I think. Effectively, the existing agreement gives SF and DUP each a veto over the formation of the Northern Ireland Executive; if either refuses to take part then it cannot be formed. We are seeing this already with Arlene Foster refusing to stand down as DUP leader and hence First Minister designate. Something like a voluntary coalition would be better, but perhaps it needs Direct Rule before the politicians admit that they cannot carry on with the present dysfunctional system.

  • clive english 7th Mar '17 - 9:11am

    hmm E Bourne is taking a view that Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson did not take, there can be no real peace if a large party representing the majority of a community is consigned to outer darkness. Additionally in most places it would be the DUP with a clearly compromised Leader, and a right wing social policy and pro brexit view that is not supported by a majority of the electorate who would see a front of civilised parties united against them.

  • Richard Underhill 15th May '17 - 5:38pm

    On 15/5/2017 The Times and the Daily Telegraph have obituaries of Brendan Duddy, a “businessman” who died at the age of 80 on 12/5/2017. The obituaries differ in detail, but The Times appears to be better researched and sourced. There is no obituary in the Guardian. There was a reference to him on the BBC Sunday Politics Northern Ireland on 14/5/2017, interviewing a member of Sinn Fein. The Times referred to a BBC documentary in 2008 called The Secret Peacemaker.
    Both obituaries are relevant because Margaret Thatcher had vigorously something she is stated as having approved. This can only have been when she was Prime Minister, because she was Education Secretary during Edward Heath’s government.
    Ministers do not always know everything. Whether they prefer not to know can be a matter of conspiracy theories.

  • Richard Underhill 15th May '17 - 5:41pm

    Typo: Please insert “denied” after “vigorously”.

  • Richard Underhill 17th May '17 - 11:21pm

    The newly elected Assembly has not met. Sinn Fein do not attend the Commons and the SDLP, Alliance and others are saying that they are therefore not in a position to do anything for their supporters. SF said that they do not take the oath of allegiance, forgetting what Gerry Adams told a previous Speaker of the Commons, Betty Boothroyd, that the real issue is Northern Ireland. It would be better if the Assembly were to meet and try to sort out some of these problems. None of the want a “hard border”. There will be a leadership election in Fine Gael because Enda Kenny is retiring.

  • Richard Underhill 19th May '17 - 9:05am

    Irish newspapers covered the praise heaped on Enda Kenny from all sides in the Dail. An exception was Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams TD who said that Enda Kenny had started an finished his period as Irish Prime Minister in crisis. Other TDs asked him about his own retirement plans. He had said some months ago that Sinn Fein were looking at the issue in the same way a large corporation would, but was unspecific about himself. Since then the Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland has died.
    It is true that Enda Kenny became PM in a crisis caused by the incompetence of a previous Fianna Fail Prime Minister, winning a general election and honouring his commitment to speak to a conference of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, then led by David Ford.
    Former MP Enoch Powell had said that all political careers end in failure, true in his case, but not true of Enda Kenny. Ireland north and south is of course affected by the British referendum.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Jan '18 - 1:07pm

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