The pro-British Democrat Unionist Party (DUP) retained its position as Northern Ireland’s largest party, just ahead of Sinn Féin, but unionists lost their majority in the regional assembly.
The DUP has 28 of the 90 seats, while Sinn Féin got 27.
Together, the two parties, which are on opposite sides of the most important dividing line in northern Irish politics, for or against British rule.
After the Good Friday Agreement ended decades of armed conflict in 1998, the two parties have shared power in Northern Ireland.
The election was conducted as an attempt to resolve the political crisis which was triggered when first minister, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin, resigned in January, which led to self-government breaking down.
Self-government in Northern Ireland is based on the premise that power should be distributed so that one side can not override the other.
Up until now, unionists – those who are pro-British rule, had a symbolic majority that they have now lost. If they fail to agree on the way forward, then Northern Ireland may again be ruled directly from London.
The two parties also stood on opposing sides on the issue of so-called ‘Brexit’, where the DUP vote to leave the EU, while Sinn Féin would remain within it.
Sinn Féin, and others on the Republican side, fear, among other things, that new border controls, and limited freedom of movement will be imposed when the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland becomes a part of the EU’s external border.
Like Scotland, Sinn Féin nationalists have voiced that Northern Ireland retain membership of the European Union.
Source: NTB scanpix / Norway Today