Stormont Election 2022 – How the parties fared...
With votes counted and seats allocated Political Correspondent John Manley offers a post-mortem on each of the parties' performance...
SINN FÉIN – There'll be no complaints within Sinn Féin's ranks about how the party performed. It appeared prepared to shed one or possibly two MLAs, confident it would still emerge as the largest party, so retaining all 27 seats will be regarded as a bonus. It's doubtful republicans were ever worried about an SDLP renaissance and possibly feared voter migration to Alliance more, yet its strong showing on the back of a conspicuously low key campaign demonstrates that its base is as solid as it's ever been.
Vote share: 29 per cent – +1.1 per cent
Seats: 27 – no change
DUP – If you'd offered Sir Jeffrey Donaldson 25 seats on Thursday morning he'd have likely taken your hand off. The DUP had braced itself for a bruising election and while its first preference vote tally will prompt some serious soul searching internally, there'll be widespread relief that it proved more transfer friendly than many believed. Alex Easton's resignation and determination to remain as an independent meant its base line was always minus one, so the loss of only two seats suggests damage has been quite limited – primarily due to TUV transfers. However, the symbolism of being dethroned as Stormont's top dog cannot be overstated.
Vote share: 21.3 per cent – -6.7 per cent
Seats: 25 – -3
ALLIANCE – The pollsters told us it was coming and recent elections indicated corresponding growth in its assembly representation was on the cards, yet the magnitude of Alliance's surge has still sent shockwaves across the political landscape. The party more than doubled its number of seats, making breakthroughs in constituencies where it's been close to anonymous in past decades. However, it remains a considerable distance behind its two larger rivals. Two automatic seats in the executive will raise the party's profile further as it seeks to build on its success, further eating into the moderate unionist and nationalist vote.
Vote share: 13.5 per cent – +4.5 per cent
Seats 17 – +9
ULSTER UNIONIST PARTY – The UUP will be disappointed that the 'Beattie bounce' proved to be nothing more than catchy alliteration, however, given the scenario many were predicting on Friday, the party will likely be thankful for its final number of seats. Question marks over Doug Beattie's chances of being re-elected was not a good look for any leader, especially one who has yet to convince everybody in his party that he has best vision. Like the SDLP, the Ulster Unionists have been squeezed in the middle ground by a surging Alliance, which may prompt the UUP's more reactionary elements to push for a less liberal agenda. It's a confused, inconclusive picture for a party that once needed to rely on its name alone to top the poll.
Vote share: 11.2 per cent – -1.7 per cent
Seats: 9 – -1
SDLP – The SDLP's performance ironically demonstrates that history and a strong media profile count for little on polling day. Colum Eastwood's party has had some poor electoral performances over the past two decades but this easily ranks among the worst. The loss of high-profile Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, coupled with the failure to make breakthroughs in target seats, must leave the party utterly confounded. Rebuilding, or should that be rebranding, will take place from Stormont's opposition benches, which it has occupied previously but this time it has no choice. With Fianna Fáil experiencing similar deterioration, talk of a merger must surely be back on the agenda?
Vote share: 9.1 per cent – -2.9 per cent
Seats: 8 – -4
OTHERS – The TUV came close to getting a column all of its own but the failure to turn an impressive first preference vote tally of 7.6 per cent into seats means it remains a one man party in the assembly. Nonetheless, its vote share shows promise for expansion and improved local government representation. The loss of the assembly's two Green MLAs is one of the most astounding aspects of this election, given that the party was hopeful of securing an additional seat. It's a major setback for a party that has punched above its weight at Stormont. Plaudits go to independents Claire Sugden in East Derry and Alex Easton in North Down who both polled impressively without the power of a party machine.