Northern Ireland Election 2016

NI Assembly election: Number of women MLAs increases by 50%

Jenny Palmer Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Jenny Palmer, who won a seat for the Ulster Unionists in Lagan Valley, was a former DUP councillor who left the party last year after claiming she had been bullied

The number of female MLAs in the Northern Ireland assembly has increased by 50% following the election.

Thirty women were elected, compared to 20 in the 2011 assembly elections.

Some were returning MLAs but others, such as Claire Bailey from the Green Party, Jenny Palmer from the UUP and Linda Dillon from Sinn Féin were elected for the first time.

Assembly speaker Mitchel McLaughlin said he was "delighted" by the rise in the number of women elected.

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Media captionThe shape of the Northern Ireland Assembly

"During my time in office, a number of initiatives attempted to raise the fact that female representation in the assembly failed to reflect the make-up of the wider population, building on the report by the Assembly and Executive Review Committee into "Women in Politics"," he said.

"While we still have a long way to match the 51% of the population who are female, this is nonetheless a significant rate of progress.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Naomi Long was embraced by her husband Michael after securing her return to the assembly

"I congratulate all 108 members who were elected but I particularly look forward to the contribution that significant female presence will make."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Arlene Foster's DUP had three women elected across the four Belfast constituencies

Former MP Naomi Long returned to frontline politics after her election for the Alliance Party in East Belfast, where she lost her Westminster seat to the DUP last year.

The DUP's Joanne Bunting took the East Belfast seat vacated by former first minister Peter Robinson, who retired last year.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The SDLP's Claire Hanna won a seat in South Belfast at the expense of her party's deputy leader Fearghal McKinney

Former agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew, who left the assembly to serve as an MP, is also returning to Stormont after her election for Sinn Féin in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

At the end of the last assembly term, there were 23 women MLAs, some of them had been co-opted.

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