So its all over.... Northern Ireland has a new Assembly elected- or does it? In many ways little has changed...
However there are a number of key changes we should really be aware of:
1) The turnout is estimated at 54% this is very low and worrying for any democracy. Can it really be said that the assembly has a true mandate if only over half the electorate voted? Does this reveal voter apathy? Does it show that people are bored with the assembly? Don't trust it or have lost interest?
2) A TWO PARTY SYSTEM? What is very clear is that the DUP and Sinn Fein have both triumphed at this election. The DUP in particular has increased its MLA's What does this show? Well it shows Peter Robinson is against all the odds safe in charge. It also safeguards the First Minister position. It also shows that the DUP is now the absolute dominant voice of Unionism with the UUP and others trailing in its wake. Sinn Fein has shown itself again to be increasing the vote.. at the expense of the SDLP.
3) Continuing decline of moderate parties. Yet again the architects of the GFA - the UUP and SDLP have slipped back. Margaret Ritchies SDLP have slipped back slightly and the UUP have suffered significantly with question marks on the leadership - they have faced a battle for relevancy with Tom Elliot raising few soundbites except by calling Sinn Fein scum. Is it yet again time for new leadership - Could Basil McCrea go for it again? Could someone new like Mike Nesbitt benefit? It certainly needs direction
4) Executive positions... this is the big question. Sinn Fein may go for a Trade and Investment portfolio - to show voters in the Republic and North that they have economic credibility - something Adams was criticised for lacking in the ROI general election. DUP may go for finance ; and education with the goal of some form of integrated education. Sinn Fein may sacrifice Caitriona Ruane in favour of Martina Anderson - for a trade post.
It should be interesting to see if the DUP will let Nationalists have the role of Speaker (Willy Hays position (DUP) as promised - they look set to renege on this promise.
5) Conor McDevitt succeeds to get elected ; Peter Robinson gets an election boost in his constituency which puts pressure on Naomi Long
6) TUV - despite all the rhetoric they posed little challenge to unionism - only serving to split the vote in areas
7) Alliance - There is no doubt Alliance has benefited with an increase in seats and share of vote. This may have been helped with the Justice ministry. The Greens too have succeeded in keeping a seat
8) The key talking point in the election was the election itself and the slow and disorganised counting system. Discussions are underway to adopt an electronic voting system
Mr John Wishart -