Sinn Féin’s historic victory in the general election in Northern Ireland “heralds a new era,” said party Vice-President Michelle O’Neill.
The election result has made them the largest party in Stormont for the first time.
When the count ended in the early hours of Sunday morning, the final results confirmed what had long been likely, that the Republican Party would push the DUP into second place.
The final seat of 90 was claimed by Gary Middleton of the DUP at Foyle after a marathon count that ended after 1am.
Sinn Fein won 27 seats, the DUP 25, the Alliance Party 17, the Ulster Unionists (UUP) nine and the SDLP eight, with four others elected.
The Alliance Party also enjoyed a successful election and will emerge as the third largest party in Stormont, while the UUP and SDLP have had disappointing results.
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie has been elected to Upper Bann despite earlier fears he could lose his seat.
However, the SDLP was upset when Stormont deputy leader and outgoing infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon lost her North Belfast seat.
Speaking in Magherafelt after leading the Mid Ulster election, Ms O’Neill said: “Today is a very significant moment of change.
“Today marks the dawn of a new era that I believe offers us all an opportunity to rethink relationships in this society on the basis of fairness, equality and social justice.
“Regardless of religious, political or social background, my commitment is to make politics work.
Shortly thereafter, party leader Mary Lou McDonald said in a news conference that Stormont’s power-sharing executive needed to be restored.
She said: “We look forward to the establishment of an executive branch, I look forward to Michelle O’Neill being nominated as first minister and to politics that make a difference to the people.
“We urge everyone to take stock, take a deep breath and really appreciate the great responsibility we all bear.
“Together we have an obligation to make government work.”
The DUP toppled Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive earlier this year as part of its protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol, vowing not to re-enter government until its concerns are resolved.
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said that following the electoral success of her cross-community party, nothing can be achieved without government in Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the Jordanstown Count Center on Saturday after party candidate Patricia O’Lynn won the final North Antrim seat from DUP veteran Mervyn Storey, Ms Long said she was excited to see what her party could achieve at Stormont.
She said: “We went to the electorate on the basis of strong performance over the last two and a half years.
“We have to get in there (Stormont) on Monday because without a government in Northern Ireland we can’t deliver anything.
“I think with all the challenges we’re facing, people aren’t going to forgive us if we miss this opportunity, so we’ve got to get in there.”
The DUP, led by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, will easily maintain its position as the largest union party despite a fall in its overall vote share.
At the count at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Sir Jeffrey said the union movement had “held its ground”.
“The unionist vote remains strong, we are the largest group in the assembly, I think there is a lot of hype about the results and I am very pleased with how the DUP has fared in our constituencies,” he said.
“We’ve held a remarkable number of sessions where people have predicted all sorts of negative things, so we have a strong foundation to continue to build on.”
Asked if Northern Ireland will have decentralized government in 2022, Sir Jeffrey said: “Let’s all cross bridges when we get there.”
He also said he would make it clear next week whether he would return to Stormont or stay in Westminster.
“Party officials will sit down, we will consider what we need to do now to get the necessary action from the government, I will make my decision on all of this clear early next week,” he told the BBC.
Sir Jeffrey was elected at the first count in the Lagan Valley.
UUP leader Mr Beattie said voters flocked to the Alliance because they were “deterred by angry, negative union movements”.
He said: “Coming from Upper Bann, I’ve had to make unpopular decisions towards the party as party leader and that may have affected me, but those are the things you go through all the time when you think of an election.
“People are flocking to people like the Alliance Party because they are put off by this angry, negative unionism.”
MOT leader Jim Allister retained his North Antrim seat, but his party looks unlikely to win any more seats.
239 candidates ran in 18 constituencies.
Five parliamentary seats are up for grabs in each of the 18 constituencies.
Northern Ireland uses the portable vote and proportional representation electoral system.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/northern-ireland-stormont-alliance-party-dup-naomi-long-b2073965.html Historic Sinn Féin victory ‘heralds a new era’ for Northern Ireland