NI Assembly election latest: Sinn Fein on for best ever result
Sinn Fein is on course for its best ever result in a Northern Ireland Assembly election after receiving the most first-preference votes.
With counting for the 90 Stormont seats continuing on Friday evening, the republican party had won 16 seats, well ahead of the Alliance on four and the DUP and UUP on three.
The party's vice president Michelle O'Neill was elected on the first count in Mid Ulster, with Alliance leader Naomi Long topping the poll in East Belfast.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was elected on the first count in Lagan Valley.
He said he was delighted with his party's performance in Lagan Valley, adding that it was too early to comment on the overall picture to say what the final outcome might be.
"I think it is going to be very tight at the end as to who will emerge as the largest party," he said.
"One of the key messages for me is that unionism simply can't afford the divisions that exist."
Ms O'Neill was surrounded by party colleagues and supporters as the result was announced in the Magherafelt count centre.
She received 10,845 first preference votes and the result was greeted by large cheers in the count centre.
Speaking to reporters shortly before her election was announced, Ms O'Neill said she was "very grateful" to be with the people of Mid-Ulster.
Asked about the possibility of her taking the first minister role, she said: "It is very early to say, let's get all the votes counted. I feel very positive."
She said that Sinn Fein wanted to "together work in partnership with others".
"That is the only way we will achieve much, much more for people here, whether in terms of the cost-of-living crisis or trying to fix our health service."
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