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NI Election: DUP loses 'petition of concern' power opening door for gay marriage - Sinn Fein slashes lead to one seat

The DUP has lost the power to trigger a controversial Stormont veto mechanism that blocked the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Tabling a "petition of concern" means a proposal before the Assembly can only be carried with the support of a majority of both nationalist and unionist members, rather than a straight head count.

A valid petition requires the signature of 30 Assembly members. In the previous mandate the DUP, with 38 seats, was the only party that could table one on its own.

That handed it an effective veto on a range of issues, including proposals to lift the region's ban on gay marriage.

Emerging from the election with 28 seats, the DUP has lost what had been a key legislative tool.

With the Assembly being reduced from 108 to 90 seats, the DUP was always in line to lose some seats in the poll.

Many viewed the crucial 30-seat mark as the DUP's dividing line between a successful or failed election.

Jim Allister, the Assembly's sole Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) MLA, has indicated his willingness to sign any petition that would block changes to marriage or abortion laws.

That would still leave the DUP one signature short of the crucial 30 and relying on support from elsewhere in the chamber.

The issue could be rendered moot if the Stormont's parties fail to form another powersharing executive in post-election negotiations and direct rule from Westminster is reintroduced by the Government.

While the DUP has deployed the petition the most in recent years, Sinn Fein has combined with other parties to trigger the mechanism.

The republican party teamed up with the SDLP on a number of occasions to block the introduction of contentious changes to the welfare system.

Results Centre - every count as it happened:  North Antrim - East Antrim - South Antrim - North Belfast - East Belfast - South Belfast - West Belfast - Strangford - South Down - Lagan Valley - Upper Bann - Newry and Armagh - Fermanagh & South Tyrone - West Tyrone - Mid Ulster - East Londonderry - Foyle - North Down

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