The rather lacklustre Northern Ireland Assembly elections on 7 March saw parties talking a lot about “bread and butter” issues, in particular the forthcoming introduction of a new water rate for NI. This constituted a definite shift in emphasis away from the politics of the peace process.
Out of the 108 seats available (via Single Transferable Vote), the two apparent “extremes” did best. Sinn Fein gained four seats for a total of 28 seats (becoming the second-largest party in the assembly), and Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) gained six members, remaining the largest party with 36 seats.
In fact, however, Sinn Fein has recently agreed to support the police service, and the DUP is now more conciliatory than it has ever been. Most people expect the DUP to go into a devolved government with Sinn Fein.
In other results, the Green Party gained an assembly member for the first time; the Alliance (cross-community) Party gained a seat; and Anna Lo became the first member of the Chinese community to be elected to legislative government anywhere in Europe.