Page last updated at 04:12 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 05:12 UK

The full story: Northern Ireland election night

BBC News Online covered the 2010 general election results in Northern Ireland as they happened.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the first entry at 2155 BST and chart how the often-dramatic story unfolded throughout the night.


0454 Dawn is breaking outside and we're just about ready to wrap things up on this live coverage. "A good night to be a nationalist leader, a terrible night to be a unionist leader," says BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport (see 0322). There's sure to be plenty of fall-out in the morning, as well as that Fermanagh and South Tyrone recount, and of course we'll be around to cover it all. Thanks for joining us over these past seven hours.

0452 DUP HOLD: Gregory Campbell retains East Londonderry with a majority of 5,355 votes. Seventeen down, one to go. DUP have eight MPs, Sinn Fein have four, the SDLP have three, the Alliance Party and independents have one apiece, while the UCU are left with none. Just Fermanagh and South Tyrone left now.

0436 So there's two seats out of 18 left to play for in Northern Ireland. The DUP's Gregory Campbell is confident he'll retain his East Londonderry seat - counting was held up by that security alert when a viable pipe bomb was left in a car abandoned outside the count centre. Fermanagh and South Tyrone is much much tighter. A dramatic first ever overnight count for Northern Ireland then.

0431 MORE RECOUNT NEWS! Michelle Gildernew of Sinn Fein is two (TWO!) votes ahead, but that's it for now. Mrs Gildernew is on 21,300 votes while Rodney Connor is on 21,298. Counting will resume at 1100 BST. Meanwhile, Sinn Fein are seeking legal advice about the recount.

0420 The DUP's Arlene Foster is reported to have arrived at the Fermanagh South Tyrone count, hot-footing it down from the BBC's studios in Belfast. She would have been the party's candidate there if they hadn't joined up with the Ulster Unionists to field Rodney Connor.

0415 BBC analyst Nicholas Whyte says UCU erred by having an "18-seat strategy" when they should have focused on the three seats where they had a chance.

0404 SECOND RECOUNT NEWS! Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew has a lead of ten (TEN!) votes now (see 0318 and 0336) In the second recount, Mrs Gildernew had 21,305 votes to unionist unity candidate Rodney Connor's 21,295. Watch this space...

0359 Jeffrey Peel, one-time UCUNF enthusiast turned arch-critic, has been blogging. He says "UCUNF is dead. UCUNF treated the local electorate with contempt. As did Peter Robinson. Both crashed and burned this evening. A fascinating evening for political anoraks." The former vice chair of the NI Conservatives resigned from the party after the DUP and Ulster Conservatives and Unionists (UCU) agreed on running a joint unionist candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

0352 Friday's early newspaper editions are in, and the headlines won't make pleasant reading for Peter Robinson. The News Letter has "Robinson ousted," the Belfast Telegraph goes for "Robinson out," while the Irish News says "Robinson's future in doubt after losing seat".

0341 News Letter editor Darwin Templeton says "unionism has essentially been decapitated tonight". In other news, UUP assembly member David McNarry says he is "not in the stakes for leadership" (see 0217). He is making a big pitch for unionist unity.

0336 BREAKING RECOUNT NEWS! The plot thickens again in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. The recount has gone to Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew by two (TWO!) votes. Unionist unity candidate Rodney Connor was ahead by eight the first time around. (see 0318) Another recount then...

0331 SINN FEIN HOLD: As expected, Conor Murphy retains his Newry and Armagh seat. He gets a 42% share of the vote there, and is 8,331 votes ahead of his nearest challenger, Dominic Bradley of the SDLP.

0328 Conservative and Unionist also-ran Mike Nesbitt says some moments of the campaign were not pleasant and that the UCU have been "given a bloody nose". He will sleep on his future.

0326 BBC presenter Noel Thompson asks new Strangford MP Jim Shannon if he's backing Peter Robinson to remain DUP leader. "I think that's a decision that the party has to take," he says.

BBC Northern Ireland editor Mark Devenport
0322 "A good night to be a nationalist leader, a terrible night to be a unionist leader." So says Mark Devenport. Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

0320 BBC analyst Nicholas Whyte has a tiny crumb of comfort for the Conservatives and Unionists: Mike Nesbitt's losing performance in Strangford showed the biggest rise in the UCU vote in any constituency, and if the performance was repeated at next year's Assembly election they would take an extra seat.

0318 Here's those figures from Fermanagh... Rodney Connor is on 21,296 while Michelle Gildernew has 21,288. That's eight (EIGHT!) votes, not six as we earlier suggested. Quite a lead he's building up there. Incidentally, the SDLP's Fearghal McKinney trails with 3,573, so with Mike Nesbitt missing out in Strangford, it's not a good night for the two former UTV journalists.

DUP leader Peter Robinson
0315 DUP leader Peter Robinson still has the backing of South Antrim MP William McCrea. "He is sinned against; I will not be calling for him to stand down," he says. North Belfast victor Nigel Dodds says he's "very sorry to hear of Peter's loss". He sends his condolences, blaming a "media campaign" against Mr Robinson.

0312 Peter Hain is a familiar face of yore here, having been Northern Ireland secretary between 2005 and 2007. The Labour Party grandee has held on to his Neath seat.

0305 SDLP HOLD: Margaret Ritchie replaces long-serving party colleague Eddie McGrady as South Down MP, seeing off the challenge of Sinn Fein education minister Caitriona Ruane. Miss Ritchie has a 8,412 majority.

0301 SINN FEIN HOLD: Martin McGuinness retains his Mid-Ulster seat. The constituency may be right beside Fermanagh South Tyrone, but his 15,363 majority is very comfortable.

0259 POSSIBLE RECOUNT: Unionist unity candidate Rodney Connor edges Fermanagh South Tyrone by six (SIX!) votes, so the counters aren't getting to go home just yet. Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew has been under serious pressure there.

0255 DUP HOLD: Jim Shannon holds on to Strangford for the party, replacing Iris Robinson. It's a very reduced majority, but he's managed to hold off the challenge from UCU newcomer Mike Nesbitt.

0250 DUP HOLD: Nigel Dodds is re-elected in North Belfast.

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The leader of the Ulster Unionists Sir Reg Empey has lost on his bid to win the South Antrim seat.

BBC Northern Ireland editor Mark Devenport
0240 Mark Devenport says the UCU made strategic mistakes in South Antrim - did they hope that the TUV would do their work for them by eroding the DUP vote? Did they rely too much on flying in big figures from the Tory party rather than pounding the streets? Mark also notes there was little sign of any nationalist tactical voting for Sir Reg.

0237 Results so far in Northern Ireland pose some big questions for unionism. Could the DUP and UUP both be looking for new leaders? What about the Ucunf project - the Ulster Unionists' electoral pact with David Cameron's Conservatives? And what about the TUV's failure to bite significantly into the DUP's vote? There's an assembly election due next year, so expect some major manoeuvring. The nationalist vote hasn't thrown up any surprises so far...

0230 The DUP's Jim Shannon has "wiped the floor" with Mike Nesbitt in Iris Robinson's old constituency Strangford, according to the BBC's Andy Martin. Mr Shannon is said to be "confident", with the result due in the next 10 to 15 minutes.


0226 DUP HOLD: William McCrea retains his South Antrim seat at the expense of UUP leader Sir Reg Empey. What's next for Sir Reg?

0225 Bangor-born Lembit Opik has got a spanking in Montgomeryshire (see 0205), losing his seat to the Conservatives.

0222 SDLP HOLD: Mark Durkan retains his Foyle seat.

0221 Feathers flying in Strangford (see 0132) , where the BBC's Andy Martin says the indications are that the DUP's Jim Shannon will beat celebrity UCU candidate Mike Nesbitt to the Westminster seat.

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey
0217 Oof... Sir Reg Empey is finished as leader of the UUP, says his party colleague David McNarry. An Ulster Unionist source in South Antrim has conceded defeat.

0216 FOYLE ALERT AND RESULT INDICATION: SDLP sources say Mark Durkan has held Foyle with about 17,000 votes against Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson on 12,100ish. That abandoned car contained a "viable device", according to police.

Naomi Long
0212 Remember we said earlier that Naomi Long was the first Alliance Party MP? Well, it turns out this isn't entirely correct. William Stratton Mills was elected for the Ulster Unionists in 1970 for North Belfast, but before the end of the parliament in 1974, he joined his fellow UUP MPs in resigning the Conservative whip. He then sat as an independent Conservative and Unionist before joining the Alliance Party in 1973. Read more on the Ark election website.

0205 Hope it's not too cheeky of us to mention Bangor-born Lib-Dem candidate Lembit Opik, who's thought to be under pressure in Montgomeryshire. One of the more well-known members of the House, not least for dating weather presenter Sian Lloyd and one of the so-called Cheeky Girls, Gabriela Irimia. He was born in County Down to Estonian parents who fled their homeland when it was annexed by Stalin. His grandfather Ernst Julius Opik worked as an astronomer at Armagh Observatory. He lost out to Baroness Scott of Needham Market for the presidency of the Liberal Democrats in November 2008.

BBC Northern Ireland editor Mark Devenport
0202 Mark Devenport wonders what will happen to the UUP-Tory alliance now that it looks certain to deliver no seats. Could Sir Reg still go to Westminster as a Lord?

0157 Mark Devenport is on TV and blogging at the same time... "In many ways Peter Robinson's ability to hang on to the DUP leadership and the First Minister's job during the saga of his wife's difficulties was an extraordinary example of resilience under fire. I would have subscribed to the conventional view that he would survive this poll, albeit with a reduced majority. However, his shock defeat in East Belfast undoubtedly damages his stock. None of the DUP MPs who we have been speaking to live on our election special wishes to be Brutus wielding his dagger, but tonight's results increases the standing of the Paisley and potentially the Dodds dynasties in the party. So who will be in charge of any negotiations with the future would-be prime ministers?"

0154 Gerry Adams claims on BBC One NI that there are people in unionist heartlands like Suffolk and the Shankill who are voting for Sinn Fein.

0152 Alasdair McDonnell's success in South Belfast means unionists could well go from a position of holding three out of four seats in Belfast after 2001 to one out of four after this election. We're still waiting on Nigel Dodds in North Belfast...

0148 South Antrim is another one of those constituencies which were hard to call (see 2328) but now UCU sources are indicating Sir Reg Empey has lost out to the DUP's William McCrea. If Sir Reg loses, the UUP will have no seats. Quite a change for what was once Northern Ireland's dominant party of government.

0145 Dr McDonnell secured a 5,926 majority, so it wasn't so close in the end after all.

0142 SDLP HOLD: Alasdair McDonnell has held on to South Belfast.

0141 South Belfast always had a unionist MP until 2005 when the SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell took the seat amid a split unionist vote. This time around, DUP contender Jimmy Spratt urged the Conservatives and Unionists to agree a unity candidate rather than field Paula Bradshaw, but to no avail. Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey stood aside to give Dr McDonnell a clear run for the nationalist vote, but in Fermanagh and South Tyrone the SDLP refused to reciprocate and boost Michelle Gildernew's attempts to fend off the unionist unity candidate there. In 2005, Dr McDonnell had a slim majority over the DUP of 1,235. To quote Sir Alex Ferguson, it could be "squeaky-bum time" at the King's Hall count.

0132 Strangford is definitely getting a new MP, but will it be celebrity Conservative and Unionist candidate Mike Nesbitt, the former UTV and BBC presenter, or DUP stalwart and enemy of doves, Jim Shannon? The DUP's Iris Robinson won comfortably in 2005 with 56.5% of the vote, but it is sure to be closer this time around. Mrs Robinson announced in December she was quitting politics, and in the following month... well let's just say the plot thickened somewhat. The key question here is whether public concern over Mrs Robinson's conduct will be enough of a factor in overturning the DUP's 12,000 majority. Mr Nesbitt will need all his name recognition to close the gap on the popular local candidate Mr Shannon, who will be hoping vast numbers of RSPB members haven't descended on Strangford like Brent Geese in autumn.

0130 A clearer picture is beginning to emerge, so it seems like a good time to remind you of our results page. Click here to see more.

0127 SINN FEIN HOLD: Gerry Adams retains his West Belfast seat. No shock here then for Peter Robinson's power-sharing colleague. Sorry we've been neglecting the style side of things tonight, but for the fashionistas among you, Mr Adams is looking casual in jeans and open-necked shirt.

0124 Do you like pie charts? Of course you do... Phillip Dunwoody of the BBC's politics unit here in Belfast has been looking at trends in the unionist and nationalist vote in the 19 full elections since 1987. These may be useful in attempting to read the runes of how things will turn out in election number 20.

0121 The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson says his heart goes out to Peter Robinson and that the result will be "devastating" for his party leader. He says the DUP will have to reflect on the election results but he says Mr Robinson has the confidence of the party.

0120 FOYLE ALERT: Counting has resumed. Templemore Leisure Centre was evacuated earlier after a car was abandoned outside. The bomb squad was called, people were moved outside but they're now back in and raring to go.

0115 INDEPENDENT GAIN: Lady Sylvia Hermon retains her North Down seat, but this time she's an independent unionist rather than a UUP member.


0106 FOYLE ALERT: It's expected that the count in Derry will resume. The candidates have been brought into the building to inspect the seals on the padlocked doors and an announcement is expected soon.

0104 A reminder that the nearest Alliance ever came to winning a seat in Northern Ireland before was in 1979, the year Peter Robinson was first elected narrowly defeating Oliver Napier (and Bill Craig).


0103 DUP HOLD: David Simpson wins in Upper Bann, retaining his parliamentary seat.



BBC NI political correspondent Gareth Gordon
0100 BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent Gareth Gordon says Peter Robinson's entire future in politics is now in question. In all the excitement, we forgot to mention this is the Alliance Party's first ever Westminster seat. Maybe that superhero campaign swung the vote...


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Mr Robinson has said he would have 'preferred not to stand' in East Belfast

DUP leader Peter Robinson
0058 Mr Robinson congratulates Mrs Long for her victory. He says: "Of course there will be many people who look at the election and draw their own conclusions about my defeat. I had indicated to many people I would prefer not to stand in this election, so be careful what you wish for." He adds: "No matter what role I play my part I will do my best to get the best deal for the people in Northern Ireland."

0052 Naomi Long polled 12,839 votes while Peter Robinson got 11,306. At the last general election, Mr Robinson polled 15,152 votes (it would have been 18,087 votes according to those adjusted figures). UCU candidate Trevor Ringland came third with 7,305 votes.

0049 ALLIANCE GAIN: Huge shock as Alliance deputy leader Naomi Long unseats DUP leader Peter Robinson. Wow.

0047 SF's Bairbre de Brun thinks that big fall in West Tyrone turnout (74% down to 62%) may be because the seat is now so safe for SF that people haven't bothered to come out. By the way, West Tyrone was the fourth constituency to declare in the whole of the UK. Meanwhile, we're holding our breath waiting for East Belfast here...

0044 BBC Radio Ulster reporter Simon Hunter says that East Belfast could be the story of the election. He says he is hearing from good sources that Naomi Long has beaten Peter Robinson.

DUP leader Peter Robinson
0043 Ooh, this could be a big one in East Belfast. The BBC's Andy Martin says it is too close to call between DUP leader Peter Robinson and the Alliance's Naomi Long. Mrs Long is looking very nervous. Her tallymen think she could be 1,000 ahead at the moment. Result coming in five to 10 minutes...


0039 DUP HOLD: Ian Paisley Jr replaces his father as North Antrim. Victorious, he takes to the podium singing a hymn. Not sure if Simon Cowell will be on the phone.

Pat Doherty
0037 SINN FEIN HOLD: Pat Doherty wins with 18,050 votes. The overall turnout was 37,632, or 61.54% of the overall electorate. "That's another magnificent victory for Sinn Fein in West Tyrone," he says. He's got a majority of 10,685.

0034 Looks like West Tyrone's about to be declared within minutes, with Sinn Fein's Pat Doherty winning on about 18,000 votes.

0032 Gareth Gordon adds it was interesting to hear that the candidate's name on the North Antrim ballot paper was Ian Paisley, with "junior" omitted.

BBC NI political correspondent Gareth Gordon
0028 BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent Gareth Gordon says that the DUP will be making "long, loud noises into the night" if Ian Paisley Junior holds the North Antrim seat comfortably. He adds though that it might be too soon to write off the TUV, particularly with an Assembly election looming next year.

0027 TUV leader Jim Allister has conceded that the DUP's Ian Paisley Jr has won in North Antrim.

BBC Northern Ireland editor Mark Devenport
0024 Mark Devenport says on his blog that Lucid Talk pollster Bill White has shared his estimates of South Belfast with him. He reckons the SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell will get 34.7%, the DUP 26.2%, UCUNF 20.8% Alliance 15.3% and the Greens 3%. Incidentally, back in 2005 Alliance polled 6.3% of the vote - where has that big jump come from? Sinn Fein supporters?

0016 Ian Paisley Sr says the people have spoken in North Antrim and the TUV have been "written off". Indeed, a developing story from several constituencies seems to be that the TUV have not done significant damage to the DUP.

0012 FOYLE ALERT: Enda McClafferty on Radio Ulster says that following a short news conference with a senior police officer, it seems likely that the Foyle and East Londonderry counts may be suspended for the night because of the bomb alert at Templemore Leisure Centre. The candidates are being shown that the building is secure, so that the votes cannot be tampered with.

0009 Remember that West Tyrone time of 0230 that we mentioned earlier? Well we're now hearing it could be as early as 0030. Pat Doherty was 1/100 with one local bookmaker to retain this seat for Sinn Fein. That's putting on £100 to win a quid! Still, you never know.

Lady Sylvia Hermon
0007 BBC Radio Ulster reporter Andy Martin says that the TUV are not even monitoring the North Down count - they are more interested in watching the East Belfast count which is being held in the same building in Newtownards. He says the talk there is "they'd be better to weigh Lady Sylvia's vote than count it".

0003 Ian Paisley Snr has just arrived at the North Antrim count, says BBC reporter Julia Paul.

0000 Some more Twitter chat that Naomi Long is polling well in East Belfast, though there's no hard figures as yet. DUP leader Peter Robinson has had what the Queen might describe as an "annus horribilis" but he is still favourite to retain his East Belfast seat. Mr Robinson has angrily rejected what he terms BBC "smears" about his land deals and his handling of his wife's conduct. It seemed for a while last year that Mr Robinson might give up his Westminster seat to concentrate on Stormont. But now he says he will be the exception holding on to both his MP and MLA roles, while his DUP colleagues will give up so called "double-jobbing". The main contenders vying to overturn his 5,877 majority are former Ireland rugby international Trevor Ringland for the Conservatives and Unionists, and Alliance deputy leader Naomi Long, who is Belfast Lord Mayor. During the campaign, Alliance depicted Mrs Long as a superhero but Mr Robinson has shown he can draw on reserves of hidden strengths himself....

2358 BBC Radio Ulster reporter Will Leitch says that DUP sources at the North Antrim count at Seven Towers Leisure Centre believe Ian Paisley Junior of the DUP will win the seat comfortably though the turnout may be down from 62% in 2005. He's not sure when all the votes will be counted - it's a distinctive constituency given that one of the ballot boxes has to travel by boat, from Rathlin Island.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan
2350 FOYLE ALERT: Mark Durkan, SDLP candidate for Foyle, tells Radio Ulster that he is standing at the back of Templemore Leisure Centre because of the bomb alert. He says a sheltered housing complex where a number of elderly people live is also currently being evacuated. He says that those who are responsible for the alert did not stand for election because "they knew they would get very little support".

DUP leader Peter Robinson
2348 Is the plot thickening in DUP leader Peter Robinson's East Belfast constituency (see 2321 update) ? The TUV is claiming Alliance candidate Naomi Long has done well in some solidly loyalist areas.

2346 FOYLE ALERT: Professor of Politics at QUB, Rick Wilford, says on Radio Ulster that the Londonderry bomb alert is anti-politics, an attack on democracy, banal and predictable. He adds though that he is surprised that no contingency plans had been made, given the wide speculation that the election would be targeted.

BBC NI political correspondent Martina Purdy
2343 A senior DUP source tells Martina Purdy they believe the DUP's Ian Paisley Junior may be on about 50% with the TUV's Jim Allister back on 16 or 17%.

2341 FOYLE ALERT: BBC Radio Ulster reporter Enda McClafferty says that it was hoped the count in Derry could go on because there was "no glass" in the area of the building where the votes are being counted - however because the media were in the reception which is surrounded by glass, the building was evacuated.

2339 Conservative and Unionist North Down candidate Ian Parsley has conceded the constituency to Lady Sylvia Hermon. On Facebook.

2333 MORE BREAKING NEWS from the counting centre for the Foyle and East Londonderry constituencies. The count centre has now been evacuated after a car was abandoned in the car park outside the Templemore sports complex. BBC reporter Keiron Tourish has to finish his piece to camera in a hurry as everyone is ushered away from the building.

2328 The Conservatives and Unionists found it tricky picking their candidate to unseat the DUP's William McCrea as South Antrim MP. UUP leader Sir Reg Empey entered the fray after a row over their original choice of local candidate and his Chris Grayling-like views on gay bed and breakfast guests. Sir Reg was parachuted in from east Belfast (not literally) at an advanced stage of the campaign, and as an outsider he has had to work hard to get his campaign off the ground. In saying that, Magherafelt native Mr McCrea isn't exactly a local, having previously been Mid-Ulster MP from 1983 to 1997. However, he's had a lot longer to gauge the lay of the land in South Antrim. Can the TUV's Mel Lucas put enough of a dent in the DUP vote to let Sir Reg in?

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey
2325 The BBC's Rosy Billingham says that both the DUP's William McCrea and Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey have arrived at the Valley Leisure Centre for the South Antrim count. She points out that if Sir Reg is elected, he will effectively be Sir Reg Empey-Empey - get it? Say it out loud...

Naomi Long
2321 BBC Radio Ulster reporter Simon Hunter in East Belfast says that Alliance deputy leader Naomi Long is not happy with how she has polled there.

2320 Professor of Politics at Queen's University Rick Wilford says on BBC Radio Ulster that if Rodney Connor is elected in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, we are likely to see greater momentum towards unionist unity candidates before the Assembly election in 2011.

2317 The BBC's Andy Martin says that in North Down, it looks like a Lady Sylvia Hermon landslide. She may have got as much as 60% of the vote. She was on 50% in 2005, but the DUP ran in that contest. North Down is a funny sort of place... well, election-wise anyway. Its last three MPs were somewhat out of step with party politics in Northern Ireland: independent unionist James Kilfedder (from 1970 to 1995); the UKUP's Bob McCartney (1995 to 2001); and Lady Hermon (2001 - ?). Lady Hermon was elected as an Ulster Unionist MP but she strongly objected to the party's electoral pact with David Cameron's Conservatives. After more than a year of keeping people guessing, she quit the UUP in March and is standing as an independent. Her Ulster Conservative and Unionist opponent is Ian Parsley, a former Alliance member who stood as its candidate in last June's European election. The DUP's decision to stand aside will assist Lady Hermon, who is so popular in North Down that one caller told a BBC Radio Ulster show he would vote for her if she was "standing for al-Qaeda".

2315 Regarding that exit poll from earlier, AP Westminster political correspondent David Stringer says the revised exit poll puts the Lib Dems up. New figure: Cons 305 seats; Lab 255; Lib Dems 61; Others 29.

2311 BREAKING NEWS from the counting centre for the Foyle and East Londonderry constituencies. Police are saying a car has been driven into the car park of Templemore Sports complex and abandoned. The bomb squad has been called but the count is continuing.

2309 The DUP's Arlene Foster says on BBC One NI that turnout in Fermanagh South Tyrone is in the "high 70s".

2307 The big story in Fermanagh and South Tyrone has been unity candidates or the lack of them. Sinn Fein tried to get the SDLP to stand aside and give Michelle Gildernew a clear run at defending her seat. In return they would stand down Alex Maskey in South Belfast to assist SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell. This offer was rebuffed by the SDLP, who are fielding their own celebrity candidate, UTV exile Fearghal McKinney. Alex Maskey dropped out of the race, amid Sinn Fein accusations of vote-splitting. It's clearly a vulnerable seat. When Mrs Gildernew first took the seat in 2001 after the UUP's Ken Maginnis retired, she won by just 53 votes (she had a 4,582 majority in 2005). On the unionist side, things are a lot clearer: the DUP and UUP agreed to step aside in favour of independent unionist Rodney Connor, the former chief executive of Fermanagh District Council who bears a passing resemblance to Ken Maginnis.

2303 Daithi McKay, Sinn Fein candidate for North Antrim, says on Twitter that it is looking good for the DUP there. The battle for North Antrim has been rumbling on for almost three years to the day. It was 8 May 2007 when Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness took their pledge of office and formally brought back power-sharing. In the months that followed, hardline DUP MEP Jim Allister quit the party in protest and set up the Traditional Unionist Voice. Since then, Mr Paisley has stood down as DUP leader and his son Ian Junior is seeking to replace him as MP. In last June's European election, Mr Allister lost his seat but gave the DUP a bloody nose by making a sizeable dent in their vote. What happens next? Watch this space...

David Cameron
2254 Arlene Foster on BBC TV coverage says the DUP won't be running to David Cameron, though he may be running to them. David McNarry of the UCU says its clear the Conservatives are going to form the government.

Ross Hussey
2252 One of the more colourful election hopefuls is Ross Hussey, the Ulster Conservative and Unionist candidate in West Tyrone. Mr Hussey is a dead ringer for Family Guy character Peter Griffin. When he was told about his doppelganger by his 23-year-old nephew and a young party worker, instead of taking offence he got them to produce an election poster with Peter Griffin on it. Unfortunately this didn't really fit in with the UCU's election strategy. Any other NI election lookalikes? Let us know on Twitter.

2246 FACT! Just 21 of the 108 candidates standing are women. However, South Down will probably be getting a female MP. In the green corner we have SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie who wants to succeed party veteran Eddie McGrady. In the other green corner it's Sinn Fein's Caitriona Ruane, the former tennis champion and education minister at Stormont. Mr McGrady had a 9,000 majority over Ms Ruane in 2005, but the balance between the two parties was much closer in the 2007 Assembly elections, when Ms Ruane topped the poll. Some unionists in South Down reckon her controversial handling of her education brief may encourage tactical voting for the SDLP. Intriguing.

2242 Here's a crash course in key election battlegrounds, courtesy of BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport. He drily notes that in days gone by, "it was sometimes said that you could put a donkey up in certain parts of Northern Ireland and pin an orange or green rosette on it, with a fair degree of certainty the animal would get elected". This election does promise to be different, he adds.

2240 Speaking of Twitter, veteran journalist Eamonn Mallie tweets that the chap who runs the election counts in Sunderland has been over to advise his counterparts in Northern Ireland about how ours can be speeded up. Houghton and Sunderland South is aiming to be the first to declare in the whole of the UK within the next ten minutes. Sunderland South, as it was known before boundary changes, has been first to declare in every election since 1992.

Twitter symbol
2238 If you're one of those new-fangled Twitter people, you can follow us @bbcvoteni2010. It seems like the best hashtag to use in following the election tweets is #geni. If this means nothing to you, well there's no need for alarm.

2235 Alliance candidate Gerry Lynch says his rival Sammy Wilson of DUP "is going to walk East Antrim" and he has already congratulated him.

BBC Northern Ireland editor Mark Devenport
2231 BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport says that if the exit poll is true, while the DUP on their own wouldn't be able to guarantee anyone a majority, our local MPs could certainly be in the mix. Read more of his thoughts here.

2226 If you're planning on staying up late for the results, here's a very rough estimate of declaration times. Of course, these are subject to change as the night goes on: West Belfast should be first at 0030, with North Belfast next at 0130. East Belfast and South Belfast could be in at 0200, then its Foyle, North Down and West Tyrone at 0230. Four constituencies could be in at 0300 - East Antrim, South Antrim, South Down and Upper Bann. At 0330 we've got the last lot: East Londonderry, Fermanagh South Tyrone, Lagan Valley, Mid Ulster, Newry and Armagh, North Antrim and Strangford. Phew!

2216 Over the course of the night, you may hear a lot of talk about adjusted voting figures from the 2005 general election. In essence, there have been boundary changes in some constituencies so to give an idea of the actual changes in the vote, a team of experts has gone back into the records to find out what the result would be in 2005 if the new boundaries were in place back then. Confused? There's a more in-depth explanation here.

2213 BBC Radio Ulster reporter Andy Martin says the largest number of vote counters is at Newtownards Leisure Centre, where 199 of them are counting up votes from North Down, Strangford and East Belfast. "The room itself resembles a cross between a football pitch and a massive exam hall. Supervisors are quietly explaining to the counters what they are to do, and how to have their figures verified. Many here are counting for the first time and three ladies sitting together say they have no idea what to expect. Their first question is "when does the drinks trolley come round?". The hall is divided into two teams, each literally on a separate pitch - North Down and East Belfast. When the whistle blows for time on those counts, the hope is that completed ballots from the far reaches of the Ards Peninsula will have arrived and be ready for a new combined team to finish the game."

2206 That exit poll means that we are anticipating that the Conservatives would be 19 seats short of an overall majority. Mr Cameron might find that winning one or two seats in Northern Ireland plus a deal with the DUP may not be sufficient to give him a majority.

2205 Could the DUP be in play here? The exit poll for BBC, Sky and ITV News predicts a hung parliament with the Conservatives the largest party. The poll puts the Conservatives on 307 seats, Labour on 255, the Liberal Democrats on 59 and others on 29. By the way, there's no exit poll for Northern Ireland so we'll just have to wait.

2200 And that's it... polling has just closed. Political sources in Northern Ireland are indicating a fairly high turnout of more than 60%. Voting is reported to have been particularly brisk in western areas especially Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Ballot papers will now be collected from 610 locations across Northern Ireland and taken to eight different counting centres.

2158 This is the first time that we've had overnight counting in Northern Ireland. During the Troubles, overnight counts did not take place because of security reasons. Ballot boxes were kept locked up overnight for counting in the morning, much to the frustration of candidates, agents, political parties and the media. There's a much fuller explanation here.

2155 Hello and welcome to our live blog of general election night in Northern Ireland. Eighteen seats are up for grabs and we'll be here all night to bring you the latest developments as they happen. According to rough guestimates, the first result could be in 0030 and the last at 0330 but the situation remains, as airports have been telling us in recent days, "fluid". Stay tuned.



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