- The first trend is the continued dominance of DUP and SF. This has been a trend since 2003 and has become stronger since the St Andrews Agreement. Claims of a carve up may become stronger this mandate.
- The unfortunate stagnation of the Alliance party at its highpoint of 8%. Alliance had high hopes after maintaining TWO high profile positions from 2011-2016. The publicity has not added to its vote however. It is holding position but not challenging the main Orange and Green in a way to really breakthrough to voters
- The 'moderates' - SDLP and UUP have had quite a poor election - not making any ground on the big two.
- This is disappointing to the UUP who had did particularly well at the General election. It may show their reliance on the political pacts drawn up with the DUP in 2015 elections. Mike Nesbitt has taken a bit of a hit and has admitted to being a little over confident in his predictions of 18-19 seats. That being said they have held their own and are in 3rd place.
- It is also disappointing for the SDLP who have a new and young leader in the form of Colum Eastwood. Some critics have called him too young. Others have pointed to the turmoil in West Tyrone where there has been a bitter debate over candidates. Its too soon to call time on Eastwood. He deserves time to mould the party in the way he wants
- The DUP have managed to dominate - holding their 38 seats. This puts them in the powerful position of being the only party with a clear veto - Petition of concern is set at 30 MLA's . It will be interesting to see if they will go for Education over Health in the Executive. Health is somewhat of a poison chalice at the moment. It is also of course a huge boost for Arlene Foster as new leader of the DUP.
- The election clearly showed the continued existence of old sectarian hatred with the use of scare tactics to maximise the unionist vote - on the fear of SF becoming the largest party and Martin McGuinness First Minister.
- The big talking point at the election is the increase in the smaller parties and independents. This was witnessed in the election in the Republic recently and seems to have been replicated - The highest vote in West Belfast was not SF but People before Profit. They also claimed a seat in Derry at the expense of SF. This is an interesting trend as together with the Alliance party they form quite a big block that is neither Orange or Green - This may require more thinking on issues like Petitions of concern and cross community voting.
- Sinn Fein - Although it was quite a good election for SF - There are warning signs. Look at how their support seems to have climbed rapidly and is now dipping. Reasons for this? Perhaps their voters are becoming apathetic about the political system and SF carving out power and signing up to things such as the welfare reforms. Their chief concern now is not perhaps from the SDLP but from the new groups emerging to the left of SF! People Before Profit is taking on ground that is traditionally SF. Is this a threat? Well clearly the taking of the top spot in West Belfast isn't just a throwaway result for People Before Profit. These new MLA's may form the new and vocal opposition that Stormont cries out for
- Finally the story of the election is not perhaps the result but the turnout. Less than 54% This is very poor and can lead to accusations about legitimacy and representation. People may complain about the politics remaining the same - but they have to go and vote for change instead of complaining about lack of it.
These are a few wee charts I have put together to show the state of the parties over the past 18 years. You can hopefully see some clear trends from it:
Mr John Wishart -