Northern Ireland is awakening to a drastically changing political landscape.

The first seismic shock was felt when Sinn Féin received the most first preference votes for the first time.

The number of votes - more than a quarter of a million - and the gap between the party and its nearest rival the DUP caused aftershocks.

Having finished around 1,500 first preference votes behind the DUP in the last Stormont Assembly election in 2017, Sinn Féin is now more than 66,000 ahead.

Further rumblings will be heard throughout today as votes are counted and the political tectonic plates shift.

The new landscape will almost certainly be one where nationalism becomes the dominant political force for the first time since Northern Ireland was created just over a century ago.

Two weeks ago, SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon issued a statement saying people were not interested in who was to be First Minister and that it didn't matter.

She clearly badly misjudged the mood of many nationalists, including traditional SDLP voters. For many the prize of a nationalist head of government for the first time in history was one worth having.

Ms Mallon, the SDLP’s only minister in the last Stormont Executive, was on the verge of losing her seat as the count was suspended last night. Her party haemorrhaged votes to its bitter rival, as well as to the Alliance Party, who look set to take her north Belfast seat.

When the counting finishes later today, Sinn Féin is expected to have translated that huge first preference vote into the most seats.

The new landscape could be prone to ruptures and fractures in the months ahead.


What do the numbers tell us about #AE22?