BBC Northern Ireland's news website invited ordinary voters to comment throughout the general election campaign.
Here, the six-strong panel give their views on the election result and assess what they think it means for the future.
NI VOTER PANEL
Name: Karen Jardine
Works: Public Affairs and Development Manager
Voting intention: Undecided
Karen's constituency of East Belfast stayed DUP
"To be honest, this election has been hard work. No one came to knock on my door to put their case forward and ask for my vote.
Instead I trawled through the manifestos and even went to an election panel or two.
In the constituency where I live there was no doubt that the DUP would win but I didn't want to go down that route.
I heard my local UUP candidate at one of the election panels and was impressed by what he said.
It was the party manifesto that dissuaded me from putting my 'x' beside his name.
In the end I voted Alliance. Some will say this was a waste of time. However, at one election panel I heard an Alliance MLA talk about how she had worked together with other parties to get things done.
It wasn't a message I had heard elsewhere and I found it to be refreshing.
Those parties that made large gains should at least bear in mind that in some constituencies more than 40% of the electorate didn't turn out to vote. Then again, if so many people chose to opt out, perhaps we got the result we deserve."
NI VOTER PANEL
Name: Barra Best
Works: Software tester
Voted: Sinn Fein
Barra's West Belfast constituency remained in Sinn Fein's hands
"This election has yielded no surprises at all. It has once again endorsed the continuing trends of previous elections.
Both Sinn Fein and the DUP have made substantial gains in the size of their vote.
The SDLP and the UUP have once again seen their voices diminished, the UUP in particular.
The UUP's vote drop is a cause for concern as they were the unionist party willing to work with nationalists and to negotiate. The DUP's anti-nationalist stance will undoubtedly make progress tremendously difficult.
Sinn Fein's mandate has once again risen to expectations. But it is now imperative that everyone recognises this mandate and treats them with the respect they deserve.
In fact, had it not been for unionist tactical voting in Foyle, it is possible that Sinn Fein could have had six MPs.
NI VOTER PANEL
Name: Martin Walker
Voted: Ulster Unionist
Martin's constituency of North Down was retained by the Ulster Unionists.
"I'm very disappointed in the results because everyone voted for their fantasy party, the one that promises everything for their tribe without any compromises.
Good luck for the peace process with the Sinners and the DUPs.
That is all I really have to say.
Thanks to those who voted for the moderate parties.
Ni VOTER PANEL
Name: Clare Skelton
Clare's Lagan Valley constituency went from UUP to DUP.
"In my opinion, the elections have shown quite worrying results regarding the Unionist parties.
I was particularly disappointed about the resignation of David Trimble as UUP party leader as in the past he has been a key player in the strive for peace in Northern Ireland.
I felt much sympathy for Mr Trimble as the DUP rejoiced after eventually 'getting rid' of him.
Regarding my favoured party the SDLP, I feel that they performed well this time around and I was particularly pleased to see their gain of the South Belfast seat.
One negative point for the SDLP was Sinn Fein's success in Newry and Armagh.
I agree with David Trimble's comment that Northern Ireland is reaching a political stalemate.
NI VOTER PANEL
Name: Danny Walker
Works: Software Engineer
Danny's constituency of South Antrim changed from UUP to DUP
"I can't say I'm surprised by the results. As a liberal, most would expect me to be unhappy and dismayed with the DUP's remarkable result, but I'm not. I think that the Unionist people of Northern Ireland now have a single party they can get behind and the in-fighting should stop .
This is good for stability. However, being the biggest party brings responsibility and I hope the DUP have the wisdom and foresight to live up to it.
They will be forced to make unpopular decisions over the years to come and I hope they will remember how they judged David Trimble in similar circumstances.
On the nationalist side, the SDLP didn't get as wiped out as everyone had expected, and that's good news.
Sinn Fein did very well too; apparently the nationalist electorate in general aren't as concerned as me about the rise of organised crime.
All in all, an interesting election. Alliance even managed to get more votes than last time - David Ford for First Minister! Someday..."
NI VOTER PANEL
Name: John Emerson
Works: Quality co-ordinator
John's constituency of East Antrim changed from UUP to DUP.
"The utter decimation of the UUP representation at Westminster came as no surprise.
The unionist people of Northern Ireland have become sick and tired of Trimble's policy of appeasement to republican murderers.
The policy of surrender that the UUP held was part and parcel of their downfall.
I was personally ecstatic at the success of the DUP and believe their success is a total vindication of their "No guns, no government" policy.
Sinn Fein/IRA have been using force to bully the people of Northern Ireland whilst the UUP have been holding the unionist people on their knees.
But as Gregory Campbell said in his acceptance speech: "Today the unionist people of Northern Ireland have got up off their knees".
With this increase in vote for the DUP the Blair regime must now stand up and take notice of the wishes of the unionist people of Northern Ireland.
No longer will they be prepared for peace at any cost.
If the British government wants Sinn Fein/IRA in a devolved assembly, then they must force them to surrender their weaponry of murder and to disband their killing machine."
The readers' panel was selected from as wide a cross-section of people as possible and may not be representative of wider public opinion.