DUP set to retain Northern Ireland Assembly majority

Mr Hay said that after the election, a system must be put in place to get quicker results.

With just 39 of Northern Ireland's 108 MLAs elected, the DUP and Sinn Fein look set to remain the biggest parties in the new Assembly.

As counting centres close for the night, the DUP currently has 16 seats, SF 14, SDLP 3, UUP 3, Alliance 3.

Although the final results will not be in until Saturday, the trends suggest a strong showing for the DUP, Sinn Fein and Alliance.

The Ulster Unionists and SDLP results are patchy.

Following delays in the counts, former Assembly Speaker Willie Hay of the DUP was among several politicians who criticised the counting system.

Sinn Fein is in contention with the SDLP for the last seat in West Tyrone where the Ulster Unionists are tipped for a gain at the expense of the DUP.

The DUP is hopeful of gains elsewhere.

The SDLP's Dolores Kelly successfully defended her seat in Upper Bann but the party's hopes of a seat in East Antrim have been dashed by a strong showing for Sinn Fein.

Elsewhere, the Ulster Unionists look set to lose seats in East Londonderry and North Down following splits in the party.

Alliance is set to gain a seat in East Belfast.

The TUV leader Jim Allister failed to make quota and is fighting for a seat in North Antrim.

In Newry and Armagh, Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy topped the poll and the SDLP's Dominic Bradley and Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy have also been elected.

Mr Murphy received 9,127 first preference votes, Mr Kennedy 8,718 and Mr Bradley 7,123.

In Upper Bann, Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd has been elected with 6,649 first preference votes.

Gregory Campbell of the DUP was re-elected for East Londonderry on the first count.

Edwin Poots of the DUP and the UUP's Basil McCrea were elected in Lagan Valley on the first count.

In South Down, the SDLP's Margaret Ritchie was re-elected on the first count.

William Hay, DUP, and Martina Anderson, Sinn Fein, were elected on the first count in Foyle.

Chief Electoral Officer Graham Shields has defended the slow pace of counting saying it was important to be 'accurate'

In South Antrim, the DUP's Paul Girvan and Trevor Clarke and Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Fein reached the quota on the first count.

In Strangford, the DUP's Michelle McIlveen and Jonathan Bell and the Alliance's Kieran McCarthy were elected on the first count.

Anna Lo of the Alliance Party topped the poll and was elected for South Belfast.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly and the DUP's Nelson McCausland were elected on the first count in North Belfast.

In North Down, Alex Easton of the DUP was elected on the first count.

DUP leader Peter Robinson topped the poll and was re-elected in East Belfast.

Sinn Fein's Paul Maskey and Jennifer McCann were elected on the first count in West Belfast.

Barry McElduff and Pat Doherty of Sinn Fein were elected at the first stage in West Tyrone.

In Mid Ulster, Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein, and Ian McCrea, DUP, were elected at the first stage.

Sammy Wilson of the DUP topped the poll in East Antrim and was re-elected.

Paul Frew, DUP, Daithi McKay, Sinn Fein, and Mervyn Storey, DUP, were all elected on the first count in North Antrim.

However, the outlook for the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists is less certain with some candidates struggling to hang on to their seats.

Official figures showed the turnout percentage to be well down on previous polls.

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