A summary of today's developments

  • Sinn Féin is to become the largest party in the Northern Ireland assembly for the first time. It reached 27 seats in the election, pushing the DUP into second place. Michelle O’Neill is now set to become the country’s first nationalist first minister. Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis said: “I encourage the parties to form an executive as soon as possible.”
  • Sir Keir Starmer said he is “confident” that he did not breach lockdown rules by having a beer and curry at a campaign event. The Labour leader spoke after Durham constabulary confirmed it was investigating claims an evening event attended by the Labour leader with other senior party figures and activists last year might have broken social distancing regulations.
  • Boris Johnson will use the Queen’s Speech as an effort to secure his leadership following a bruising set of local elections which saw the Tories lose control of key authorities and suffer a net loss of more than 400 councillors. The speech on Tuesday, setting out the Government’s priorities, would focus on the economy, health and national security, Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi said as he urged Tory MPs to rally around the Prime Minister.
  • The Aspire party has taken control of Tower Hamlets in East London from Labour. On Friday, Aspire’s Lutfur Rahman defeated Labour incumbent John Biggs to become the elected mayor of Tower Hamlets.
  • Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross has no plans to quit as leader despite losing 60 councillors in the local elections. The day after his party dropped to third place in Scotland, he said he would “try to do better” and continue fighting against the SNP.

Ireland’s taoiseach, Micheál Martin, said it was “incumbent on all political parties” to form an executive in Northern Ireland.

Reacting to the results of the Northern Ireland assembly election, he said: “I would like to congratulate all of the successful candidates on their election.

“It is now incumbent on all political parties and elected representatives to deliver on their mandate, through the nomination of a first and deputy first minister and the formation of a new executive to serve the interests of all of the people of Northern Ireland.

Power-sharing and principles of partnership, equality and mutual respect are at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement, through which peace has been secured and progress achieved for almost 25 years.

“A new power-sharing executive is vital for progress and prosperity for all in Northern Ireland.

“As a co-guarantor of the Good Friday agreement, the government will continue to work in partnership with the British government and engage with the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland to seek and support the effective operation of all of the political institutions of the agreement.”


On Friday morning, as broadcasters, pollsters and political analysts tried to make sense of a mixed bag of early results from the previous day’s local elections, no one was quite clear who had performed the best.

All the party leaders seemed happy enough and the political messages were blurred.

Boris Johnson was said by people in Downing Street to be in a buoyant mood when he sat down at his desk at 8.15am, believing the heat was off him.

He had told a meeting with his advisers the previous day that “we are going to get our arses kicked”.

But while he could see his party had indeed taken a beating and was losing seats, it seemed that a Tory meltdown had been avoided, and that Labour was failing to win back support behind the red wall.

While West Tyrone was on the surface another safe victory for Sinn Féin, in reality it was the SDLP that might have savoured the success most.

After a bad few days for the nationalist party, SDLP supporters in the Magherafelt count centre were heartened by the victory of Daniel McCrossan, PA reports.

One of the party’s best-known faces in Stormont, McCrossan was returned with 11.9% of the first preference vote on the sixth count, alongside the DUP’s Tom Buchanan.

McCrossan offered his full support to party leader Colum Eastwood and defended the way the party ran its campaign.

“I think Colum Eastwood has led this election very, very strongly. I think the campaign has been energetic, we have had fantastic candidates.

“I’m talking about politics here in the north of Ireland.

“At this election, everyone on the doors told me they wanted change, the reality is the exact same mandate, only in slightly greater numbers, has been given to the DUP and Sinn Féin. Is that an election for change?”


Shortly after 7pm on Saturday, 88 of 90 Assembly seats had been filled.

Sinn Féin currently has 27 seats while the DUP has 24, the Alliance Party 17, the Ulster Unionists (UUP) nine and the SDLP on seven, with four others.


Boris Johnson will use the Queen’s Speech as an effort to secure his leadership following a bruising set of local elections which saw the Tories lose control of key authorities and suffer a net loss of more than 400 councillors.

The speech on Tuesday, setting out the Government’s priorities, would focus on the economy, health and national security, Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi said as he urged Tory MPs to rally around the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister’s troubles deepened on Saturday, with a constitutional headache in the form of Sinn Fein’s victory in the Stormont elections, PA reports.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: “I encourage the parties to form an executive as soon as possible.

“The people of Northern Ireland deserve a stable and accountable local government that delivers on the issues that matter most to them.

“The electorate delivered a number of messages on Thursday. They were clear that they want a fully functioning devolved government in Northern Ireland, they want the issues around the protocol addressed, and that they want politics to work better.

“Over the coming days I will be meeting with all the party leaders and will urge them to restore the Stormont institutions at the earliest possible moment, starting with the nomination of an Assembly Speaker within eight days.

“The government remains committed to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and will continue to work with the Northern Ireland parties and the Irish Government to deliver its vision for reconciliation, equality, respect for rights and parity of esteem.

“Together, we must move forward towards a brighter future - that means delivering for all the people of Northern Ireland.”

As Sinn Féin became the largest party in Stormont for the first time, shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle said his party could act as an “honest broker”.
He said: “Congratulations to all the new assembly members and to Sinn Féin for earning the right to nominate a new first minister, it is healthy for Northern Ireland that parties from either community can nominate a first minister and shows the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement working. “Unionism will still have a strong voice within powersharing and calls for progress on the remaining issues of the protocol have been heard and should not prevent a return to the executive.

The government must now prioritise practical solutions through negotiation with the EU and not chase headlines with empty threats.

“The Labour party will always be an honest broker for Northern Ireland, and we stand ready to help Stormont deliver on the promise of these elections and get an executive up and running to help people with the cost-of-living crisis we are facing across the United Kingdom.”

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has tweeted:

Many congratulations to @moneillsf and @MaryLouMcDonald on a truly historic result for Sinn Féin. I wish Michelle & her colleagues - & all Northern Ireland’s elected representatives - the very best for what comes next & hope to see the NI government functioning again soon.

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) May 7, 2022

Activists accused Priti Patel of “racist” and “inhumane” policies over government plans to send migrants to Rwanda during her appearance at a Conservative party dinner.
The home secretary was speaking at the Bassetlaw Conservatives Spring Dinner in Nottinghamshire on Friday when several activists stood up on their chairs and began denouncing Patel for the policy.

Footage published on Twitter by campaigning group Green New Deal shows a woman stand up and tell Ms Patel: “Priti Patel, your racist policies are killing people.
“Your plans to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda are inhumane, they’re inhumane and are going to ruin people’s lives.” A Home Office spokesperson said: “The world-leading migration partnership will overhaul our broken asylum system, which is currently costing the UK taxpayer £1.5bn a year – the highest amount in two decades. “It means those arriving dangerously, illegally or unnecessarily can be relocated to have their asylum claims considered and, if recognised as refugees, build their lives there. “Our new migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda fully complies with international and national law.”


Outgoing Stormont infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon has lost her seat in North Belfast amid an Alliance surge.

The SDLP deputy leader stayed in the race until the final stage of the count on Saturday evening, when former lord mayor Nuala McAllister (Alliance) became the fifth and final MLA elected in the constituency.

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly and Caral Ni Chuilin were both elected on the first count on Friday.


Sinn Féin to become largest party in Northern Ireland assembly

Sinn Féin is to become the largest party in the Northern Ireland assembly for the first time.

It reached 27 seats in the election, pushing the DUP into second place.

Michelle O’Neill is now set to become the country’s first nationalist first minister.


The Aspire party has taken control of Tower Hamlets in London from Labour after winning 24 of the 45 seats on the council, with two seats still to be declared.

On Friday, Aspire’s Lutfur Rahman defeated Labour incumbent John Biggs to become the elected mayor of Tower Hamlets.

Shortly after 6pm on Saturday, 81 of 90 Assembly seats in Northern Ireland had been filled.

Sinn Féin currently has 23 seats while the DUP have 23, the Alliance Party 17, the Ulster Unionists (UUP) nine and the SDLP on six, with three others.


Foreign Office minister James Cleverly accused Keir Starmer of “hypocrisy and dishonesty” over the “beergate” row.

A leaked memo published by the Mail on Sunday indicated the curry enjoyed by Starmer and colleagues in April 2021 while coronavirus restrictions were in force was planned in advance on the schedule for the day’s campaigning, and that no further work was listed after the dinner.

Cleverly said: “Starmer claimed it was an impromptu curry. Turns out it was pre-planned.

“Starmer claimed nowhere served food. Turns out that loads of places did.

“(Angela) Rayner claimed she wasn’t there. Turns out she was. Hypocrisy and dishonesty in equal measure.”


Here is some interesting election analysis on the Northern Ireland results from PA.

While the opinion polls have been predicting it for many months, the achievement appeared to be no less seismic when the results finally began to trickle through.

Sinn Fein has swept aside many years of history and is on course to become the first nationalist or republican party to take the largest share of seats in a Northern Ireland Assembly election.

The results will be a significant psychological blow to Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s DUP, which has lost its position as the biggest party for the first time since 2003, when it usurped David Trimble’s Ulster Unionists.

Safe in the knowledge that the election was in its hands, Sinn Fein ran a safety-first campaign, seemingly unwilling to engage in any electoral trench warfare, preferring instead to portray vice-president Michelle O’Neill as the “first minister for all” in waiting.

The party also made a tactical decision not to labour the point over its desire to see Irish unity, concentrating instead on bread and butter issues such as the cost-of-living crisis and spiralling hospital waiting lists, which seem to have chimed positively with voters.

The DUP’s gamble on focusing its campaigning energy on unionist opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol and raising the spectre of a Sinn Fein victory increasing the possibility of a border poll on unity was less successful, with the party dropping both in its share of first preference votes and overall seats.

The much anticipated Alliance Party surge has also become a reality in this election, with the cross-community party now set to become the third largest at Stormont.

The growing support for Naomi Long’s party seems to show an increasing percentage of the population in Northern Ireland want to move away from traditional orange and green politics.

The election has been a crushing disappointment for the smaller unionist and nationalist parties, the UUP and SDLP. Despite their leaders receiving positive personal ratings, any increase in support at the ballot boxes failed to materialise.

UUP leader Doug Beattie, who was spared the indignity of losing his Upper Bann seat, chose to contrast his approach to that of the DUP, insisting that he stood for positive politics, while Colum Eastwood of the SDLP won plaudits in the televised election debates for his articulate portrayals of the concerns facing voters.

However, both parties leave the election facing the headache that they are further away than ever from challenging the hegemony of the larger unionist and nationalist parties.
While the election is now settled, what is less clear is what it will all mean.


Alliance leader Naomi Long topped the poll in Belfast East, where the same party strengths were returned to the Stormont benches.

Long, whose party enjoyed a significant surge across Northern Ireland in the Assembly elections, described a “rollercoaster of a week”.

She dedicated her win in memory of her late father-in-law, who died recently.

Long was elected on the first stage of the count along with DUP candidate Joanne Bunting.

Her Alliance running mate Peter McReynolds was also elected to retain the party’s two Assembly seats in the constituency.

Long paid tribute to Chris Lyttle, who stood aside before the election, quipping that it felt like a divorce to no longer be working together.


Jeffrey Donaldson leader of the Democratic Unionist Party attends the Medow Bank election count centre on Saturday.
Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, attends the Meadow Bank election count centre on Saturday. Photograph: Peter Morrison/AP


Sinn Fein has retained its dominant position, holding four of the five Stormont Assembly seats in West Belfast.

Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit picked up the fifth and final seat in the constituency to return the same party strengths in the constituency as 2017, PA reports.

It was one of the most contested constituencies in Northern Ireland, with 17 candidates.
Danny Baker (Sinn Fein) was elected on the first count at Titanic Exhibition Centre on Friday before a long wait for the other four MLAs who were returned late Saturday afternoon.

Orlaithi Flynn (Sinn Fein) was elected on the 10th stage of the count.

Her party colleagues Aisling Reilly and Pat Sheehan were elected on the 11th stage.

Baker said the party was returning its “strongest ever mandate” and thanked the voters of West Belfast.

Mary Lou McDonald said she looked forward to Michelle O’Neill being nominated as first minister at Stormont.

She said: “We look forward to an Executive being established, I look forward to Michelle O’Neill being nominated as first minister and to have politics that delivers for people.

“We would appeal to everybody to take stock, take breaths and really assess the huge responsibility that all of us carry.

Collectively we have an obligation to get government up and running.”

Asked what her message to unionists was, McDonald said: “Don’t be scared.”


Sir Keir Starmer “confident” he did not break lockdown rules

Sir Keir Starmer said he is “confident” that he did not breach lockdown rules by having a beer and curry at a campaign event.

The Labour leader spoke after Durham constabulary confirmed it was investigating claims an evening event attended by the Labour leader with other senior party figures and activists last year might have broken social distancing regulations.

Starmer said: “As I have explained a number of times, I was working in the office, we stopped for something to eat.

“There was no party, no breach of rules, I am confident of that.”

Speaking during a visit to Scotland, the Labour leader added: “The police have obviously got to do their job but meanwhile I am here in Scotland because we have had a fantastic set of results.”

He also said that while he called for Boris Johnson to quit after he was fined for attending a party at Westminster during lockdown, he would not be resigning.


Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership has made Labour “credible again”, the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, added.

He was asked by the PA news agency if it was a problem that Labour had made significant gains in London but not in the so-called red wall.

He said: “I’m the mayor of London, not the mayor of red-wall seats.

“I’m really pleased and proud that here in London we have had historic results in seats in central London, in inner London and in outer London.

“Some for the first time ever like Barnet, Westminster the first time since 1964, Wandsworth the first time in 44 years.

“What Keir Starmer has shown in his leadership is that we’re credible again.”


Sir Keir Starmer’s gathering in Durham is “a million miles away” from Boris Johnson’s lockdown rule-breaking, according to the mayor of London.

Sadiq Khan was at the Eid in the Square celebrations at Trafalgar Square on Saturday.

He told PA: “Keir is quite clear. No rules were broken.

“He was working incredibly hard all day, had supper in the evening.

A million miles away from what Boris Johnson was found to have done.

“The prime minister who makes the rules, breaking the rules. But also a culture in Downing Street where it’s bring your own bottles, it’s karaoke machines, it’s garden parties.

“Very, very different to what Keir is alleged to have done.”


Michelle O'Neill delivers speech at Magherafelt count

Michelle O’Neill, set to become the first nationalist first minister of Northern Ireland, delivers a speech at the Magherafelt count.

She opens congratulating everyone elected to the assembly from “across all parties and of all constituencies”.

“I really look forward to working with all of you, each and every one of you, in the days and weeks ahead,” she says, adding that the results represent a “defining moment for our politics and for our people”.

“Today ushers in a new era which I believe presents us all with an opportunity to reimagine relationships in this society on the basis of fairness, on the basis of equality, and on the basis of social justice,” she says.

“Irrespective of religious, political, or social backgrounds, my commitment is to make politics work. My commitment is to work through partnership, not division.

“We will work with those who serve, of all other political perspectives. We will work together. We will show respect and we expect to be shown respect. There is a space in this place for everyone.

“I will provide leadership which is inclusive, which celebrates diversity, which guarantees rights and equality for those who have been excluded, discriminated against, or ignored in the past.”


The education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, has been on the broadcast media today insisting Boris Johnson remains an electoral asset and urging his fellow Tory MPs not to act against him over the party’s local election results.

Speaking on Sky News, he said: “If you look at the way that Boris cuts through in places like Nuneaton, places like Newcastle-under-Lyme, other parts of the country as well – Harrow in London.

“People don’t like to vote for split parties, for teams that are divided. We are stronger when we are united and that would be my message to all my colleagues.”

The elections saw the Conservatives lose almost 500 seats and control of 11 councils, including former Tory strongholds in Westminster, Wandsworth, and Barnet.

Read the full story here.


The shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, has said Labour’s performance on Thursday marked a recovery from a “near death experience”.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: “We know we’ve got to rebuild trust. We had a terrible near death experience at the last general election, so we’re not taking anyone for granted.

“But I think what we saw in the results on Thursday is a firm foundation for going on to win the next general election.”


The Liberal Democrats say the British electorate have put Conservative MPs “on notice” and that they risk being ousted if they keep Boris Johnson as prime minister. The Lib Dems have so far won 867 seats, a net gain of at least 189.

The British people have put Conservative MPs on notice. If they don’t get rid of Boris Johnson and stop taking people for granted, Liberal Democrats are coming for them.

Our great country deserves so much better than Boris Johnson and his out-of-touch Conservative Government. pic.twitter.com/Qf6ipY3rOa

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) May 7, 2022


Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald are clapped in by supporters as they arrive at the count in Magherafelt.

Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald arrive pic.twitter.com/3ogen4GtPq

— Lisa O'Carroll (@lisaocarroll) May 7, 2022

In a piece from Edinburgh, historian Rory Scothorne reflects on the Tories’ woes in Scotland, where they have been replaced as the second party by Labour.

“Despite a respectable result last year when they held steady at Holyrood, under Douglas Ross’s leadership the Tories have failed to renew the sunny centre-right sensibility cultivated by Ruth Davidson, who fronted their recent revival,” he says.

“[Ross’s] flip-flopping over Johnson’s fitness to be prime minister – calling for resignation before withdrawing the demand – has only reinforced the sense of a man out of his depth.”

Scothorne adds that, despite Labour’s gains, the SNP still reign supreme, and that Scots are unlikely to deliver Keir Starmer a majority any time soon.

“[Scottish Labour Leader Anas] Sarwar has made small inroads into the softest, most discontented bits of the SNP vote via single transferable vote. But it is not yet enough to swing a first-past-the-post election away from the SNP, so long as independence delivers 40% of voters into the latter’s camp,” he says.

“Labour could irritate the SNP, however, simply by returning to main opposition status, and shedding the doomed aura that has shrouded their manoeuvres since 2015.”

Read the full piece here.

A picture from our correspondent Lisa O’Carroll at the count in Magherafelt, where Sinn Féin’s deputy leader, Michelle O’Neill, and the party president, Mary Lou McDonald, are expected shortly.

Supporters and Sinn Féin’s newly-elected assembly members are seen waiting to greet the pair.

Press and Sinn Fein winners … forming guard of honour . pic.twitter.com/HshaKLaOTV

— Lisa O'Carroll (@lisaocarroll) May 7, 2022


Sam McBride, Northern Ireland editor of the Belfast Telegraph, says Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is “at best delusional” to claim the DUP has performed “extremely well” in the assembly elections.

To say the DUP has done "extremely well" in an election where it has secured its worst Assembly result since 1998 and has lost decisively to Sinn Féin is at best delusional. #ae22 https://t.co/or9UfMi4MC

— Sam McBride (@SJAMcBride) May 7, 2022


The DUP Leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, has insisted his party is doing “extremely well” in the Stormont Assembly election.

The party is set to lose its place as the largest in the assembly to Sinn Féin, which has so far won 21 seats to the DUP’s 18. Sinn Fein also has the largest vote share, winning 29% of first preference ballots to the DUP’s 21%.

Speaking to reports, Donaldson said that unionism had “held its ground” and that, taken as a bloc, unionist parties would still hold the most seats in the assembly.

“I think there is a lot of spin around results and I’m very pleased with how the DUP has done in our constituencies,” he said.


Where things stand in Northern Ireland

Of the 90 seats up for grabs in the Northern Ireland assembly, 64 have so far declared a result. Here’s how things stand.

Sinn Féin has won 21 seats, and is on track to be the largest party overall. The Democratic Unionist party, previously the largest party in the assembly, currently has 18 seats, and will become the second largest.

The Alliance party currently has 13 seats, while the Ulster Unionists have six and the SDLP have four. The Traditional Unionist Voice has one seat, and former DUP member Alex Easton has been re-elected as an independent in North Down.

Get all the latest figures on our results page.


A good point from writer Ben Phillips. Sinn Féin’s victory in Northern Ireland is certainly significant, but it’s worth remembering that, under the terms of the Good Friday agreement, the first minister and deputy first minister are the joint heads of the regional government. The fact that the largest party gets to appoint the first minister is symbolic.

Re Northern Ireland, remember that the First Minister & the Deputy First Minister have - by law - exactly the same amount of power & are co-dependent. The title hierarchy was only there for unionist pride, & they could have graciously (ie, smartly) dropped it any time...

— Ben Phillips (@benphillips76) May 6, 2022


Our colleague Rory Carroll looks at what to expect in Northern Ireland in the coming days, given that the DUP leader, Jeffrey Donaldson, said he would not join a new administration until the UK government “dealt with” the protocol, the post-Brexit deal that puts a trade border in the Irish Sea.

That would paralyse Stormont, which would be run by a caretaker administration, and put pressure on the prime minister, Boris Johnson, to amend the protocol to end the stalemate. All sides expect the impasse to last weeks, possibly months, possibly culminating in a new election.

Read the full report here.


The BBC’s Jayne McCormack reflects on the outcome for the Green party in Northern Ireland.

A really difficult day for the Greens… there’s no doubt Clare Bailey & Rachel Woods punched above their weight as MLAs, some tough conversations to be had no doubt about what’s gone wrong with the party’s vote

— Jayne McCormack (@BBCJayneMcC) May 7, 2022

The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, poses for selfies outside the V&A Dundee today
The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, poses for selfies outside the V&A Dundee today. Photograph: Lesley Martin/PA

Nicola Sturgeon has said that Sinn Féin’s performance in Northern Ireland has shown there are “big questions” around the future of the UK “as a political entity”.

Scotland’s first minister told PA Media:

If (Sinn Féin) emerge as the largest party today in Northern Ireland which looks very likely, that will be an extraordinary result and something that seemed impossible not that long ago.

There’s no doubt there are big fundamental questions being asked of the UK as a political entity right now.

They’re being asked here in Scotland, they’re being asked in Northern Ireland, they’re being asked in Wales and I think we’re going to see some fundamental changes to UK governance in the years to come and I am certain one of those changes is going to be Scottish independence.”

However, despite the changes she predicts, Sturgeon said all of the nations of the British Isles will continue to co-operate regardless.

Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland – we already sit around the British Irish Council table, and we will continue to do so, no matter whether Scotland is independent or not,” she said.

The British Isles is not going away and will continue to co-operate but, for Scotland, co-operating on the basis of equality as an independent country will be much, much better than the situation just now.”


PA Media reports:

The Alliance party has gained a seat in South Belfast as the Green party leader, Clare Bailey, lost out.

Sinn Fein’s Deirdre Hargey topped the poll in the constituency on Friday and was elected on the first count.

The late Christopher Stalford, who represented the constituency for the DUP before his sudden death earlier this year, was remembered during acceptance speeches.

Edwin Poots, who successfully reclaimed a seat in South Belfast for the DUP, tearfully dedicated his win to Stalford.

Poots previously represented the Lagan Valley constituency, but initially attempted to move to run in South Down before being asked by Stalford’s family to run in South Belfast following his sudden death early this year.

The SDLP’s Matthew O’Toole was the third MLA returned in South Belfast before the race narrowed to the two Alliance candidates, Paula Bradshaw and Kate Nicholl, Ulster Unionist candidate, Stephen McCarthy, and Bailey.

Bradshaw was elected on the seventh stage of the count, and her party colleague, Nicholl, joined her on the eighth stage.

Nicholl, who is the current Belfast lord mayor, is also the first Stormont MLA to have been born in Zimbabwe.

She said: “Our city is changing, diversity, and I really want to represent everyone in our city, to know they are valued, they are important and they matter.”


Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry tells BBC NI everyone shd recognise the support for parties that wanted protocol removed or reformed. But he called on DUP to work together in "pragmatic approach" to find solution rather than plunge UK into new war with EU

— Lisa O'Carroll (@lisaocarroll) May 7, 2022

On the Northern Ireland elections, Lisa O’Carroll has put together a handy guide to what happens next.

The assembly must meet within eight days of the election, but it could be up to six months before.

It is expected to sit on Tuesday or Thursday next week.

Lisa writes:

The 90 elected members must then sign the register and declare whether they are unionist, nationalist or “other” under the power-sharing system in place.

Unlike Scotland or Wales or the UK national government – where the largest party can form a government – the Northern Ireland assembly requires a coalition of the two largest parties of different designations to form the devolved government.

It is a known as a “co-sociational” political system designed for countries with major internal divisions.

For more on this read her full report here.


The DUP leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, insisted his party had done “extremely well” in the Stormont assembly election.

According to PA Media, Sir Jeffrey said unionism “has held its ground” as he arrived at the count at the Titanic Exhibition Centre.

He added:

The unionist vote remains strong, we are the largest designation in the assembly, I think there is a lot of spin around results and I’m very pleased with how the DUP has done in our constituencies.

We’ve held a remarkable number of seats where people were predicting all kinds of negative things, so we have strong foundations, we continue to build on them.”

Asked whether Northern Ireland will have a devolved government in 2022, Sir Jeffrey said: “Let’s cross all the bridges when we get to them.”


The DUP will refuse to take part in the executive until the protocol is reformed or replaced. This we know.

But what we don’t know yet is whether its leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, will force a byelection.

Yesterday he topped the polls in the Lagan Valley constituency in the assembly elections but double-jobbing as a member of the legislative assembly and an MP is banned.

He has one week to choose and is under pressure from fellow MLAs including former first minister Paul Givan to take up his seat in Stormont.


Keir Starmer has posted a video to social media in which he calls the local elections a “turning point for the Labour party”.

In the clip, Starmer is seen talking to a crowd of local party activists about the results, telling them: “We’ve shown we can win.

“That’s the change that collectively we’ve brought about in our Labour party, the trust that we’re rebuilding that’s putting us on the road to Number 10.”

This is a turning point for the Labour Party.

Change starts now. pic.twitter.com/xVUtD8E45Q

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) May 7, 2022

Labour has so far gained 261 council seats across the country, though has made few gains in areas like the red wall that were key to the Conservative victory in 2019 and that Labour will need to regain if it stands any chance of forming a government after the next election.


Sinn Féin’s deputy leader, Michelle O’Neill, and the party’s president, Mary Lou McDonald, had been expected to make an appearance at the Meadowbank count centre in Magherafelt soon for the final declaration of the mid-Ulster seat, held by O’Neill, but have delayed the appearance because the count is taking longer than expected.

The official declaration is not now expected to be until the afternoon. When it comes, expect speeches and a rapturous reception from the Sinn Féin contingent in the hall.


Here’s what leading commentators are saying this morning about the Northern Ireland election.

Belfast Telegraph political editor and author Sam MacBride called the results “sobering” for unionism. He writes that it has not only lost far more support than nationalism, but that a “deep, structural problem has also been exposed” by the fact that even the more liberal pitch offered by the Ulster Unionist party failed to stem the losses.

Jon Tonge, professor of politics at Liverpool University, said that the “tumult was not utterly catastrophic for the [Democratic Unionist party], but the crown is lost”.

But Nationalist commentator Brian Feeney said “the shock of Sinn Féin’s massive victory has confirmed the worst fears” of unionists from the Democratic Unionist party and the Traditional Unionist Voice, namely that “the game is up for ethnic solidarity unionism”.


Positive local results for Labour and a strong showing for the Liberal Democrats have revived questions about whether parties of the left and centre should look at forming electoral pacts ahead of the next general election. But opinion within Labour remains divided.

Asked by the BBC’s PM programme on Friday whether the party was giving any thought to a progressive alliance, the shadow attorney general, Emily Thornberry, said: “We are going into the next general election wanting to win it and wanting to be the government, and being a government that has the majority of seats.

“We will have no deals going into that election and no deals coming out of it.”

But asked about the issue on the Today programme on Saturday, David Blunkett, a former home secretary and current member of the House of Lords, said Thornberry’s position was “premature and possible unwise”, adding that he “wouldn’t rule out some forms of informal pact at this stage”.

“You just need to look at the Conservative party,” he said. “They are a coalition of very different factions. The coalition of different factions on the centre and left are the Lib Dems, the Greens, and Labour, and to some extent Plaid Cymru in Wales. Let’s get real.”


The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, has refused to say if Sir Keir Starmer should resign as Labour leader if he is found to have broken lockdown rules.

It comes after police in Durham police announced they were investigating a possible lockdown-breaching gathering attended by Starmer while he was campaigning in the Hartlepool byelection last year. Starmer himself called for Boris Johnson to resign following a similar announcement by the Met in January about parties in Downing Street.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Blackford said it was too early to say what should happen to the Labour leader, but added there should be “sanctions” for anyone who breaks the law.

“There has to be sanctions for people who break the law, but we’re not talking about that yet - let’s wait and see what happens with that investigation,” he said.

“If there are issues for Keir Starmer to answer, then he should do so.”

He went on to say the Labour leader will have to “take his own actions, take his own consequences”, if found to have broken the law, but added: “The only man that’s been found guilty, as we sit here today, that is Boris Johnson.”


How do elections to the Northern Ireland assembly work?

The elections to the Northern Ireland assembly are quite different to most UK elections. Members of the assembly are elected to 18 multi-member constituencies by single transferable vote.

Each constituency has five representatives, totalling 90 overall. Voters assign preferences to candidates on a ballot slip. If a candidate gets enough first-preference votes, they win a seat, and if not, second and then third preferences – and so on – are counted until all seats are filled.

Because of this, multiple counts are needed in each constituency, which means results can take a while to compile. It is possible for the first count not to result in the award of a seat. Another consequence is that it is not clear whether a party has increased or decreased its total seats in a constituency or overall, until all seats have been awarded.

By the terms of the Good Friday agreement the government of Northern Ireland is shared between the two main communities: nationalists, who favour closer ties with the Republic of Ireland, and unionists, for whom Northern Ireland’s position in the UK is more important. The largest party in the assembly appoints the first minister, and the largest party from the other community appoints the deputy first minister.

Some parties with cross-community support or whose supporters do not identify strongly with either community think this arrangement perpetuates divisions, but in practice since 1998 the largest party has always been from the unionist community and the second-largest from the nationalist.


The most significant story to come out of these elections will undoubtedly be the success of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland. The party looks set to win a majority of the 90 seats in Stormont, meaning the woman who led it to victory, assembly member Michelle O’Neill, is about to become the region’s first nationalist leader.

O’Neill was born into a prominent republican family at the height of the Troubles and went on to became a protege of Martin McGuinness, the Republican leader who served as deputy first minister from 2007 until his death in 2017. Following McGuinness’s death, Sinn Féin vaulted O’Neill over more senior colleagues to lead the party in the north, part of a strategy to promote younger faces with no direct ties to IRA violence.

Throughout the campaign leading up to this election, she deliberately targeted centrists voters, focusing on the cost of living and healthcare as opposed to a united Ireland.

Our Ireland correspondent, Rory Carroll, has the full story of O’Neill’s life and her rise to power. Read his profile here.


How many councils have changed hands?

You can see the post at 08.49 for a summary of how many council seats each party has won and lost as things stand. Now here’s a summary of how many councils each has gained or lost control of.

The Conservatives so far have control of 35 councils altogether, 12 fewer than before Thursday, while Labour has control of 74 councils, an overall gain of eight.

The Lib Dems have held onto 11 councils and gained five, giving them a current total of 16, while Plaid Cymru held one and gained three, meaning it currently control fours altogether.

The Scottish National party has so far gained one council and there is no change for the Greens, who did not previously hold control of any individual council.

The number of councils held by independent councillors or where there is no overall control has fallen by five to 66.


The education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, has appeared on the BBC’s Breakfast programme to discuss the local election results.

Asked what lessons the Conservative party should draw from the heavy losses it has suffered, he said: “It’s been a tough night for us. We have to listen to the voters. What they’re telling us in places like Wandsworth and of course in Westminster.

“Some of the issues obviously are local. Other issues are national. The global battle against inflation and the spike in energy cost and the pressure it’s putting on household budgets is front and centre of people’s minds.

“Next week we have the Queen’s speech, where you’ll see our plan for the economic recovery post-pandemic, the plan to deal of course with the backlog in the NHS, and of course making sure that we live on safer streets.”

Zahawi was also asked whether Boris Johnson remained an electoral asset to the Conservative party, particularly in the wake of Partygate and accusations that he mislead parliament over the affair.

“The prime minister came to parliament. Explained himself, explained how that fine happened. How he absolutely believed he was not in anyway misleading parliament,” he said.

“I think he is unique as a politician in being able to cut through. If you look at not just his ability to communicate but his ability to make decisions.

“The vaccine programme, which I was involved with, and making sure we had the vaccines available to be able to deploy them. On delivering Brexit, on delivering adult social care.”


Some reaction to Thursday’s result from our columnist Jonathan Freedland, who says that Keir Starmer can’t dazzle the public like his predecessor Tony Blair, but that his “steady, unflashy competence” might be enough to help him oust Boris Johnson.

“Here, then, is how Labour might raise the current ceiling on its performance,” he says. “Talk a bit less about what the Tories are doing; talk a bit more about what Labour will do – and do it not with a rock-star personality at the top but a few sharp, memorable promises that lodge in the consciousness.

“It won’t be enough to win a 1997-style landslide... But it might be enough to repeat 2010, depriving the incumbent PM of his majority and allowing for a change of government.”

Read the full piece here.

Where things stand

If you’re just tuning in, here’s a summary of where things stand with 196 of 200 councils having declared their results.

The Conservatives have won 1,344 seats overall, representing a net loss of 398. Labour has won a total of 2,980 seats, which means they have gained 264 seats.

The Liberal Democrats have won 863 seats, so have gained 189 seats in total. Plaid Cymru now has a total of 202 seats, which is one more than the party’s total before the election.

The Scottish National party has won 453 seats, which is an overall gain of 62. The Green party has won 156 seats, which equates to a net gain of 81 seats.

The number of seats held by Other parties, meaning smaller parties and independent candidates, has fallen by 240, and currently stands at 628.


Why do the seat tallies differ between outlets?

A quick note to explain the data we’re publishing. You might have noticed that the tallies of the number of seats gained and lost so far by each party differs between outlets. This is for a number of reasons.

Our data on councillor numbers comes from the PA Media news agency, which only reports on complete councils, while some sources report each council seat as it comes in.

There are also differences in the point of comparison: PA calculates change based on the status of each seat just before the election, not on its status after the preceding election.

Lastly, there are frequent changes in ward boundaries and the number of councillors per ward, to maintain equality of representation. This may mean that parties’ net seat changes in one particular council may not balance each other out.


How the papers covered the local election results

The mounting pressure on Boris Johnson in the wake of the Conservative party’s heavy local election losses provides the lead for several papers – although some titles see Keir Starmer’s alleged lockdown breach as the bigger story.

The Guardian splash headline reads “Johnson blamed for Tory election woes” as the prime minister suffers increased scrutiny about his suitability as leader after seeing almost 400 of his councillors ousted from their seats.

The Financial Times has a similar splash headline in which it says “Johnson faces renewed threat as Tories hit hard in local elections” above a picture of the prime minister appearing to scratch his head.

The Times reports that “Tories punished in south”, contrasting the governing party’s stronger performance in north compared with the devastating defeats suffered in London where it lost the strongholds of Wandsworth, Westminster and Barnet.

FT Weekend: “Johnson faces renewed threat as Tories hit hard in local elections” #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/43QVlO4TK8

— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) May 6, 2022

You can read the full paper review here


The latest from Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Fein northern leader Michelle O’Neill
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Fein northern leader Michelle O’Neill Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Sinn Féin is on course to be the biggest party at Stormont after a symbolic breakthrough for Irish nationalism in Northern Ireland’s assembly election.

The party topped the first-preference vote with 29%, which will position its deputy leader, Michelle O’Neill, to become the region’s first minister, the first nationalist to hold the position in a historic turnaround and a severe blow to unionism.

With transfer votes still being counted on Friday night, it was clear the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) had dramatically lost its pre-eminence by slumping to 21.3% in the first preference vote. “A disaster for the DUP,” tweeted Tim Cairns, a former special adviser to the party.

The other big winner in Thursday’s election was the centrist Alliance, which surged to 13.5%, putting it in third place and showing the growing influence of voters who shun nationalist and unionist labels.

An expected DUP boycott could delay and conceivably derail the formation of a new power-sharing executive unless Boris Johnson’s government renegotiates the Northern Ireland protocol with the EU, as the DUP demands. That would put a question mark over O’Neill becoming first minister, but not alter the profound psychological impact of a Sinn Féin victory.


Tories suffer crushing defeats in local elections

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of remaining the council election results in England, Scotland and Wales - as well the results of Northern Ireland’s assembly elections.

Boris Johnson’s leadership is facing fresh peril after senior Conservatives blamed him for losing swaths of the party’s southern heartlands to the Liberal Democrats and flagship London boroughs to Labour.

In a punishing set of local elections for the Tories, the party lost about 400 council seats, ceding control of Westminster and Wandsworth in London to Labour for the first time since the 1970s, and plunging to its worst position in Scotland for a decade.

Many grassroots Tories laid the blame at Johnson’s door for the loss of their seats. John Mallinson, the Conservative leader of Carlisle city council, told the BBC he had “lost some very good colleagues” in the Cumberland local election, and had found it “difficult to drag the debate back to local issues” while campaigning, because of Partygate and the cost of living crisis.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin is on course to be the biggest party at Stormont after a symbolic breakthrough for Irish nationalism in Northern Ireland’s assembly election.

Stick with us throughout the day for results, reaction and analysis.



Nadeem Badshah (now) and Christy Cooney (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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