Ireland's Sinn Fein party, led by Michelle O'Neill, seen here January 2016, gained significant ground over the country's Democratic Unionist Party in the Northern Ireland Assembly election. Following the election the Sinn Fein party held 27 seats, just one less than the DUP's 28.
Photo by Geoff Caddick/EPA
March 4 (UPI) -- Ireland's Republican Sinn Fein party made significant gains on the Democratic Unionist Party in the Northern Ireland Assembly election.
The Sinn Fein party came within one seat and 1,168 first preference votes of the DUP, marking the first time the DUP will not hold a majority in Stormont.
The snap election was held after the collapse of a coalition led by Arlene Foster's DUP and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, and the two parties will have three weeks to establish a government run by Irish nationalists and unionists together or another election will be held.
"If there isn't an administration put in place then the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is on a legal obligation to dissolve the assembly and have another general election, which I doubt will get us anywhere," former Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble said.
All 90 seats were declared on Saturday morning with the DUP dropping from 38 to 28 and the Sinn Fein rising to 27.
Following the election, pro-unionist parties held 40 seats, nationalists claimed 39 and 11 were held by the cross-community, non-aligned bloc.
The government shakeup caused the DUP to lose the numbers required to veto reforms in Northern Ireland and to use a special power-sharing mechanism designed to shoot down legislation.
The DUP can also no longer invoke the "petition of concern" used to veto a series of social policy proposals in the past.
Despite belief it will be difficult for the two sides to reach an agreement on a new government in the three-week timeframe, new Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill said the party was still receptive to a power sharing deal.
"The vote has increased. I think that is because people knew that action needed to be taken. They have had their say, we now need to get down to the business of fixing what's wrong and delivering for all citizens," she said.