After what some were describing as the most toxic election in Northern Ireland guess what happened? From the fog the middle ground emerged.

The most dramatic example of change is the continued growth of Alliance.

Its deputy leader, Stephen Farry, won the North Down seat vacated by the Independent Unionist, Sylvia Hermon. The DUP was hoping its candidate, Alex Easton, would draw on the constituency's traditional links with unionism.

Instead the Alliance growth, demonstrated in recent local and European elections, continued. Alliance leader, Naomi Long, has overseen the party achieve its best ever Westminster result - 17.6% of the vote. She predicts the pattern will continue.

The DUP were the main losers in terms of seats - down from 10 to eight. The defeat of Emma Little-Pengelly in South Belfast, a pro-Remain constituency in the Brexit Referendum, was expected. The scale of the SDLP’s Claire Hanna was considerable.


Read more:
Nationalists gain as Unionists lose Westminster majority
Northern Ireland election quotes of the night
As it happened: Northern Ireland count 
Northern Ireland: Results by constituency


But the body blow for Northern Ireland’s largest party was the defeat of the party’s deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, by Sinn Féin’s John Finucane. It was effectively a battle between the two main parties - Nuala McAllister of Alliance was the only other candidate. Worryingly for the DUP, Sinn Féin got over the finishing line with 2,000 votes to spare.

Nigel Dodds first won the North Belfast seat in 2001 and he has retained it at every election since then. He was the DUP leader in Westminster and during the past two years he became a regular in 10 Downing Street as the party negotiated and fine-tuned its Confidence and Supply Arrangement that kept the Minority Conservative administration in power.

His autumn speeches in the Westminster Chamber articulated DUP opposition to Boris Johnson’s proposed Brexit deal. Today he finds himself a victim of the general election, triggered by the DUP’s decision to withdraw its backing for the prime minister.

Interviewed in the count centre, the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, said she hopes Mr Dodds will stay involved in politics. She confirmed she will not be resigning from her position and she said her priority is the restoration of the power-sharing Assembly at Stormont.

Sinn Féin’s President Mary Lou McDonald and the party’s leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O'Neill, voiced similar sentiments about the restoration of power-sharing.

Sinn Féin saw a drop in its support - but it managed to retain seven seats. It ousted Nigel Dodds in North Belfast but it was on the end of a drubbing from SDLP leader Colum Eastwood in Derry, where he received 17,000 more votes than the outgoing MP, Sinn Féin’s Elisha McCallion. In the battle between nationalists, the SDLP won.

Having lost all its three Westminster seats in 2017, the SDLP will now be sending two MPs to Westminster -party leader, Colum Eastwood and Claire Hanna from South Belfast. She was not in a position to confirm if the party will seek a change of leadership in order to have an Assembly member such as deputy leader, Nichola Mallon, in the role.

Friday December 13th is without doubt the most successful ever day in Boris Johnson’s political career. He has routed the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn. Nigel Farage has disappeared, one more time. The Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, who went along with the blurb that marketed her as "your next prime minister" lost her seat.

As many’s the Lotto winner will testify, excess of any kind can be a dangerous beast. 'Get Brexit Done' was the election-winning slogan. But the truth is the hardest parts of Brexit, an exercise never before attempted, lie ahead.

Two years ago, in June 2017, the DUP Westminster members couldn’t believe their good fortune. Theresa May’s snap election had transformed them from peripherals to kingmakers. They couldn’t fulfil all the lunch invitations they received. Arlene Foster and her Assembly group remained on the home patch, trying to cobble together a deal that would get them back into a revived Stormont. An absence of support from some of the Westminster 10 for the proposed arrangement with Sinn Féin was a critical factor in scuttling it.

If Boris Johnson is wise, he will take note of the harsh message sent to the DUP, Sinn Féin and to Jeremy Corbyn. Neglect the middle ground at your peril.