Shortly before 11am, what its critics have dubbed the "Sinn Féin juggernaut" passed another milestone in its political journey.

It surpassed its previous record of 105 council seats across Northern Ireland, with around 150 seats still be filled.

The party had said its aim was to emerge as the largest in local government in Northern Ireland and it now seems just a question of at what time today that will be confirmed.

It comes just a year after Sinn Féin emerged as the largest party at Stormont for the first time, with its Vice President Michelle O'Neill the first Catholic and nationalist to be eligible for the role of First Minister.

The fact that has not happened because of the continuing DUP boycott of Stormont was a factor in Sinn Féin's success.

"Sinn Féin had a good hand and they played it extremely well, they ran a good campaign and deserve this result."

Not the words of Mary Lou McDonald, but those of SDLP leader Colum Eastwood when speaking to BBC Northern Ireland this morning.

"I'm not surprised. It was very clear to me that people, particularly nationalists, wanted to reassert that result from last year, they were extremely annoyed that Michelle O'Neill has not been able to be First Minister," he added with his party once again haemorrhaging votes to its nationalist rival.

The DUP campaign and focus on the constitutional issue throughout the past year was also clearly a factor.

Having come into office on a promise of a "Northern Ireland for all", party leader Jeffrey Donaldson has spent virtually all of his time focusing on the Northern Ireland Protocol and its successor, the Windsor Framework.

The consistent message has been that the post-Brexit trade deal has undermined Northern Ireland's position within the UK, in other words that it has made it "less British".

Focusing on the constitutional issue and wrapping the Union flag around his party clearly provoked a reaction from many "soft" nationalists who previously did not vote for Sinn Féin, as well as galvanising its traditional support base to come out in force.

"It will be a case of 'Go raibh míle maith agat, Jeffrey as SF celebrates its spectacular council election success'," is how Suzanne Breen, the Belfast Telegraph's political editor put it.

The DUP insists it has also had a good election and at this stage indications are that it will be close to the 122 seats it won last time around.

A predicted surge by the Traditional Unionist Voice led by former senior DUP member Jim Allister, which has taken a much harder line on any possible resumption of power-sharing, does not appear to have materialised.

On the other hand the once dominant Ulster Unionist Party, which took a softer line on the protocol, has suffered.

Its leader Doug Beattie expressed concern about the impact of the "Sinn Féin juggernaut" getting too far ahead after what he described as "at times a brutal election".

The fact that the more hardline TUV does not appear to have made a breakthrough could make it easier for Jeffrey Donaldson to take his party back into power-sharing.

The centre ground Alliance Party has continued to make gains and is set to leapfrog both the SDLP and Ulster Unionists to become the third largest party in local government.

That's a major breakthrough for the party, but the pace of growth has slowed.

Analysts believe many voters from a nationalist background may have opted to vote Sinn Féin in retaliation for the DUP blocking the appointment of Stormont's first ever nationalist and Catholic First Minister.

Read more: Sinn Féin set to become largest party in NI local government