Editorial: Sinn Féin poised to make history
Despite a long and largely lacklustre campaign, the voters have turned out and delivered some dramatic results.
Before the polls opened this week, there were predictions that this would be an historic election to the Stormont Assembly.
And so it has proved.
Sinn Féin has turned in a remarkable electoral performance and, while votes are still being counted, is now on course to be the largest party in the assembly, which would mean it will take the first minister title.
It is important to acknowledge the historic nature of this achievement and the party's journey to reach this pivotal moment.
Their campaign was deliberately low key, disciplined and carefully managed, aiming to send out a positive message while not allowing a border poll to dominate the debate.
While the DUP vote is down, the party has perhaps not done as badly as seemed to be on the cards after its internal turmoil of the past year and decision to collapse the executive over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Even so, if at the end of the count they are no longer the biggest party in the assembly, that would be a huge psychological blow to unionism.
However, perhaps the biggest story of the election after the Sinn Féin vote, is the surge in the Alliance vote.
The party, under the leadership of Naomi Long, is poised to be the third largest party in the assembly, an extraordinary result by any standards.
It is an outcome that has come about largely at the expense of the UUP, SDLP and the Greens, which have seen their votes squeezed and some big names lose their seats.
Colum Eastwood believes DUP scare tactics over the prospect of a nationalist first minister has driven traditional SDLP voters towards Sinn Féin.
Whatever the reason, the party will be deeply disappointed by its performance and left to reflect on what it can do to restore its fortunes.
Similarly, the Ulster Unionists will be wondering where they go from here.
But as the final shape of the assembly becomes clear, the absolute focus of all the parties must be on forming an executive and delivering genuine power-sharing government.
The crucial issues that need to be urgently addressed simply cannot wait.
The people who turned out to vote on Thursday deserve a fully functioning administration working for the benefit of everyone.