Count underway in Foyle

The count process gets under way at the Valley Leisure Centre, Newtownabbey.

The count process gets under way at the Valley Leisure Centre, Newtownabbey.

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Counting has begun in the Foyle and East Londonderry constituencies at the Foyle Arena after yesterday’s Stormont election.

The announcement of the first preference vote counts are due to be made on Friday afternoon but the complicated single transferable voting system used in Northern Ireland for local government elections means that the make-up of the new Assembly will not be known until Saturday afternoon at the earliest.

And that will mean an anxious wait for the three unionist politicians chasing a single seat in Foyle.

Turnout at Thursday’s local government elections is thought to have held up over 50 percent across Northern Ireland.

There were concerns that less than half the electorate would bother to turn up at the polls following the recent downward trend in recent elections.

Early indications after the polls closed at 10pm on Thursday was that the turnout was likely to remain at the 55 percent seen at the previous local government election in 2011.

That figure was significantly down on the 63 percent who voted at the 2007 Assembly election.

Overall voting patterns in Northern Ireland, which regularly exceeded 70 percent during the Troubles, now match the rest of the UK.

Thursday’s unexpectedly warm weather may have helped the turnout with polling stations reporting brisk business in the early evening.

Overall 276 candidates are competing for 108 seats across 18 constituencies across Northern Ireland. In Foyle 16 candidates are vying for six seats.

More than 2,000 staff are involved counting votes and 1,000 ballot boxes were moved the eight different count centres across Northern Ireland on Thursday evening.

The DUP are expected to retain their position and the largest single party with Sinn Fein remaining in second place.

The Ulster Unionists and the SDLP have indicated that they could go into opposition rather than accept ministerial roles in government if they are not satisfied with the outcome of post-election talks.