AT THE DOUBLE: Aisling O'Reilly MLA congratulates John Finucane and Paul Maskey on retaining their seats in Belfast

Seismic changes in North after dramatic election night

THE 2024 UK general election in the North of Ireland will go down in history as a further indicator to the seismic changes that are taking place across the political landscape, with Sinn Féin now becoming the largest party from the Six Counties at Westminster, at a time when the party is already the largest at Stormont and local government.

It was an election where the party’s vote increased by over four per cent at the same time as the DUP's vote collapsed and the unionist party lost three MPs and came very close to losing two others.

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With early speculation that former nursing chief Pat Cullen was under pressure and looked to be coming in second best in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, she eventually romped home with a 4,000 vote majority. This helped Sinn Féin to retain the seven seats that they were defending at a time when the DUP were fighting a rear-guard action against Alliance, UUP, TUV and Sinn Féin.

DUP party leader Gavin Robinson successfully defended his East Belfast seat against Alliance leader Naomi Long, but in South Antrim the party lost one seat to UUP’s Robin Swann, in Lagan Valley to Alliance’s Sorcha Eastwood, and then in North Antrim where Ian Paisley fell to the one-man band that is the TUV’s Jim Allister. In East Antrim and East Derry, veteran DUPers Sammy Wilson and Gregory Campbell held on with the skin of their teeth with diminished majorities, finally giving the party five seats.

For the SDLP they will be happy to have held on to their two seats in Foyle and the new Belfast South and Mid Down seat.

It was a night of political earthquakes that has changed the face of local politics.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald was quick to pounce on the changed electoral map.

“The message of the people of the north of Ireland to the British government tonight is that change is happening, it is time to plan, it is time to prepare for a new future together on this island. The people have spoken.”

She added: “From day one, we will be knocking on the door of the British government to demand that they stop their disgraceful underfunding of our public services and of the Executive here.

“It is now time to move forward to a new and better future.”