Celebrations at the Titanic Center in Belfast as Claire Bailey and Steven Agnew keep their seats. Image courtesy of GPNI.

Claire Bailey and Steven Agnew have been reelected to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Claire Bailey keeping her seat in a down-to-the-wire race in South Belfast.

With 18 fewer seats up for grabs in this election smaller parties were expected to be under pressure. In South Belfast Bailey kept her seat with the DUP losing out in the last round. In North Down, Steven Agnew won comfortably, albeit in the final round of the STV process.

People Before Profit’s Gerry Carroll retained his Belfast West seat whilst Eamonn McCann lost out a the final stage of the count in Foyle. PBP and the Greens saw their first preference votes largely unchanged from 2016, but higher turnout and fewer seats always made the result uncertain.

The election is of huge significance for Northern Ireland and the UK as it’s the first time that unionists have failed to secure a majority in Stormont.

The DUP now have 28 seats, Sinn Fein 27, SDLP 12, UUP 10, Alliance Party 8, Greens 2, People Before Profit 1, the Traditional Unionist Voice 1 and independent unionist 1.

This means the new Assembly has 40 unionists and 39 nationalist/republicans, with 11 MLAs affiliated to neither tradition.

With a historically high turnout – the highest since the vote which followed the 1998 Good Friday Agreement – the new Assembly has a strong mandate, and its new make up will have major implications for the future.

With fewer than 40 seats the DUP have also lost their power of veto over Stormont, something they used in 2015 to block the introduction of equal marriage, despite a majority of MLAs voting for the change.