Northern Ireland news

Voters go to polls ahead of fresh power-sharing talks

A voter goes to polls at Bloomfield Methodist Church polling station on Grand Parade in east Belfast. Picture by David Young, Press Association 
By Michael McHugh, Press Association

Voters are going to the polls today ahead of fresh talks to restore power-sharing.

Polling stations in the council elections opened at 7am and will close at 10pm.

A total of 819 local government election candidates are standing across 11 council areas.

Among noteworthy races for seats will be Sinn Féin's former West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff's efforts to return from the political wilderness.

He resigned as an MP in January last year after he was accused of mocking victims of the Kingsmills massacre.

He maintained that a video he posted on social media - which showed him with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the anniversary of the IRA murder of 10 Protestant workmen - was meant as a joke.

Mr McElduff is running for a place on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.

In Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, the DUP's first openly gay candidate is seeking election.

Alison Bennington is standing for a party which has repeatedly vetoed same-sex marriage.

It is the first poll since journalist Lyra McKee (29) was shot dead by dissident republicans during disturbances in Derry in April.

Her death prompted revulsion against the group responsible - the New IRA. 

Following the killing, the British and Irish governments announced that fresh talks aimed at restoring power-sharing would start after the local elections.

The talks are to begin next week.

Stormont collapsed in early 2017 after former deputy first minister, the late Martin McGuinness, resigned in a row over the DUP's handling of the botched renewable heat incentive scheme.

There are 1,463 polling stations across Northern Ireland.

There will be overnight verification of unused ballot papers returned from the polling stations, with councils ready to begin counting tomorrow morning at 8am.

The election is being conducted by Single Transferable Vote, a proportional representation system.

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