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DUP and Sinn Fein tighten grip on Northern Ireland politics

By Darwin Templeton

It was a Westminster ballot, but the triumphant DUP and Sinn Fein have tightened their grip on Northern Ireland politics.

In many ways the seeds of today’s election results were sown the in the Assembly elections just two short months ago.

Unionism was stung – and the DUP’s call to respond to the Sinn Fein surge and lay to rest any talk of a border poll was heeded in unprecedented numbers.

Any mutterings of discontent about the leadership of Arlene Foster will have been silenced.

And the bonus for Nigel Dodds is the looming deadlock at Westminster that could hand the 10-strong DUP caucus a pivotal role.

As it happened: General Election 2017: SDLP and UUP are wiped out in night of turmoil in Northern Ireland as DUP and Sinn make gains

Michelle O’Neill picked up where she left off in March and swept aside any doubts voters may have had about the abstentionist policy.

Her anti-Brexit position struck a chord along the border and the decision to walk out of the Executive was once again endorsed by nationalists.

In the middle, the UUP and SDLP have not so much been squeezed as wrung out to dry.

It was the election Robin Swann didn’t want or need, coming barely before he had time to get his feet under the table as UUP leader.

For the SDLP, the fall of their Foyle citadel, was foreshadowed by the Sinn Fein showing in April, but is still a particularly bitter pill to swallow.

Both parties are now facing a crucial period of soul-searching – a process that will have to be conducted while coping with a considerable loss to the parties’ coffers.

All eyes will now switch to the renewed effort to restore devolution that will start again next week.

The results throw up the intriguing prospect of a Conservative Secretary of State trying to strike a deal at Stormont while his (or her) party makes advances to the DUP at Westminster.

Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill can both justifiably argue that they’ve been handed a strengthened mandate for their talks position.

Relations between the parties were not helped by an electoral campaign that was at times ill-tempered and personal.

But perhaps compromise will be easier from positions of strength?

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