Sinn Fein celebrates an "amazing day" as it closes the gap on the DUP

Courtney Goldsmith
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Sinn Fein celebrates an "amazing day" (Source: Getty)

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) held its title as Northern Ireland's biggest party after assembly election results were revealed last night, but Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein closed the gap after seeing its highest voter turnout since 1998.

Just over 1,000 votes split the main parties in the closest ever assembly election - and voter turnout was at its highest in two decades. The DUP won 28 of 90 seats while Sinn Fein secured 27.

Sinn Fein's leader Michelle O'Neill told journalists it was an "amazing day". The nationalist party saw its voter turnout jump to 65 per cent, its highest level since the first elections after the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.

Read more: Sinn Fein raises prospect of Northern Irish referendum after Brexit vote

After her re-election, the DUP's outgoing first minister Arlene Foster said: "Let us now move forward with hope, hope that civility can return to our politics."

"There is work to be done to quickly mend the relationship which has been frayed by the discord of this election."

The election Thursday was the closest nationalists had ever come to becoming the largest party in Northern Ireland as the DUP held less than half of the seats for the first time.

Because the DUP didn't win at least 30 seats, it will also lose the ability to veto legislation on its own.

The DUP and Sinn Fein will have three weeks to form a new power-sharing government to avoid devolved power returning to Westminster for the first time in a decade.

Read more: McGuinness won't stand in Northern Ireland election

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