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10 questions that follow the shocks of 2015 General Election in Northern Ireland

How will the political drama play out?

Published 11/05/2015

DUP Leader Peter Robinson celebrate their General Election results with MPs Nigel Dodds and Gavin Robinson at the Kings Hall in Belfast.
DUP Leader Peter Robinson celebrate their General Election results with MPs Nigel Dodds and Gavin Robinson at the Kings Hall in Belfast.
East Antrim and South Antrim constituency counts at Valley Leisure Centre, Newtownabbey. Danny Kinnehan celebrates with Mike Nesbitt after taking the South Antrim seat from Willie McCrea Picture by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
A defeated Naomi Long at the East Belfast count
The DUP’s Gavin Robinson makes his speech after winning the East Belfast seat from Alliance’s Naomi Long (left)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 08: Prime Minister David Cameron opens the car door for his wife Samantha as they leave 10 Downing Street for Windsor Palace to meet with Queen Elizabeth I on May 8, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Ed Miliband speaks to the media and party supporters at George Street in London, as he resigns as leader of the Labour Party after a dramatic election night where his party was virtually wiped out in Scotland and David Cameron was on the way to a Commons majority. Yui Mok/PA Wire
Ukip leader and parliamentary candidate for Thanet South Nigel Farage (left)arrives at the Winter Gardens in Margate, Kent, for the delayed count in Thanet South. Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Alasdair McDonnell is to give up his Assembly seat after retaining his South Belfast Westminster position
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 08: Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha leave 10 Downing Street for Windsor Palace to meet with Queen Elizabeth I on May 8, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Opposition Labour party leader Ed Miliband (C) and his wife Justine Thornton arrive at Labour party headquarters in London on May 8, 2015, the day after a general election. Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives looked on course Friday for a surprise victory in Britain's general election which would redefine the country's future in Europe and herald more austerity cuts. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLISJUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - MAY 08: SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon departs Edinburgh ahead of attending the 70th anniversary of VE Day commemorations in London on May 8, 2015 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - MAY 08: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop.) Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg looks dejected as they leave his constituency declaration at the English Institute of Sport on May 8, 2015 in Sheffield, England. The United Kingdom has gone to the polls to vote for a new government in one of the most closely fought General Elections in recent history. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - MAY 08: Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez look dejected as they leave his constituency declaration at the English Institute of Sport on May 8, 2015 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
East Belfast candidate Naomi Long (Alliance) Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
DUP East Belfast candidate Gavin Robinson takes the seat from Naomi Long at The King's Hall in Belfast
DUP Jeffery Donaldson gives the thumbs up after winning the Lagan Valley Count at the Leisureplex, Lisburn.
East Antrim and South Antrim constituency counts at Valley Leisure Centre, Newtownabbey. Danny Kinnehan celebrates with wife Anna after taking the South Antrim seat from Willie McCrea Picture by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
East Antrim and South Antrim constituency counts at Valley Leisure Centre, Newtownabbey. Danny Kinnehan shakes the hand of Willie McCrea who he replaced as MP of South Antrim Picture by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
Willie McCrea from the DUP gives a very gracious speech after being replaced by Danny Kinnehan. Picture by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
Sinn Fein's Pat Doherty celebrates with his family and freinds after the announcment of his 16,807 votes victory in West Tyrone during this evenings results in the 2015 general Election results from the Omagh Leisure Centre. Photo Mark marlow/Pacemaker Press
North Belfast candidate?Gerry Kelly (Sinn Fein) Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
East Belfast ballot boxes arrive as the General Election count takes place at the King's Hall on May 7, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is interviewed by a broadcaster as the General Election count takes place at the King's Hall on May 7, 2015 in Belfast
East Antrim and South Antrim constituency counts at Valley Leisure Centre, Newtownabbey. Danny Kinnehan UUP Candidate Picture by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
Counting in the General Election gets underway at the Kings Hall in Belfast.
DUP's Nigel Dodds (North Belfast) with wife Diane at The King's Hall in Belfast
Banbridge Count Counting is under way at Banbridge, County Down, one of eight centres across Northern Ireland Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
East Antrim and South Antrim constituency counts at Valley Leisure Centre, Newtownabbey. Sammy Wilson DUP Candidate Picture by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
East Antrim and South Antrim constituency counts at Valley Leisure Centre, Newtownabbey. Danny Kinnehan UUP Candidate Picture by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye.
Sitting MP Mark Durkan, SDLP, at the count for the Foyle Constituency which is being held in Templemore Sports Complex, Derry-Londonderry Northern Ireland. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 07.05.15
PACEMAKER BELFAST 07/05/2015 One of the first ballot boxes to arrived is opened in Templemore Sports Complex last night as counting got underway in the 2015 General Election.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 07/052015 Westminster Elections Banbridge Count Sinn Fein candidate Catherine Seeley pictured at the count in Banbridge, County Down, one of eight centres across Northern Ireland Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 07/052015 Westminster Elections Banbridge Count Counting is under way at Banbridge, County Down, one of eight centres across Northern Ireland Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 07/052015 Westminster Elections Banbridge Count Counting is under way at Banbridge, County Down, one of eight centres across Northern Ireland Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
A man arrives to cast his vote at Groomsport boat house on May 7, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Pacemaker Press Belfast 07-05-2015: Voters at Glenavy Youth Project in Co Antrim , as Northern Ireland voters take to the polls on Thursday to select 18 MPs in the general election. A total of 138 candidates are standing across Northern Ireland and 1.2m people are eligible to vote. Picture Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
A woman walks past a sign in the window of the Newtownards Electoral office in Co Down Northern Ireland. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Demonstrators carry black flags during a protest at Parliament Square on election day on May 7, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
An election official stacks plastic boxes at a vote counting centre in Margate, southeast England, on May 7, 2015 in preparation for the arrival of the ballots during the UK general election. AFP/Getty Images
A polling station sign on a parking billboard at Cairnshill Primary school in Belfast as polls open across the UK for the General Election. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
SNP candidate for Gordon, Alex Salmond, arrives to cast his vote at Auchterellon School, Ellon, with local resident Nicki Falconer with her family Skye (left) and Keiran (right) as Britain goes to the ballot box today in the most uncertain General Election for decades, with no party on course to emerge a clear winner.
A ballot box for the constituency of East Belfast at the Newtownards Electoral office in Co Down Northern Ireland. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
UUP candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Tom Elliott arrives at the polling station in his home town of Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh.
A woman walks past post for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Alliance party as she walks in east Belfast on May 7, 2015, as Britain holds a general election. Polls opened Thursday in Britain's closest general election for decades with voters set to decide between the Conservatives of Prime Minister David Cameron, Ed Miliband's Labour and a host of smaller parties. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Mid Suffolk Council handout photo of their Poll Clerk Simon Stoner by a caravan being used for a Polling Station in Kenton, near Debenham, as Britain goes to the ballot box today in the most uncertain General Election for decades, with no party on course to emerge a clear winner. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday May 7, 2015. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: Mid Suffolk Council/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Women at the polling station at Bordesley Green allotments in Birmingham, as Britain goes to the ballot box today in the most uncertain General Election for decades, with no party on course to emerge a clear winner. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 7, 2015. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Polling stations open in Northern Ireland for the 2015 Westminster Election. Voting at the Elim Church polling station in the Dundonald area of east Belfast.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 07-05-2015: Northern Ireland voters are going to the polls on Thursday to select 18 MPs in the general election. A total of 138 candidates are standing across Northern Ireland and 1.2m people are eligible to vote. SDLP Leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell pictured casting his vote with Olivia Nugent and daughter Aileen. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 07-05-2015: Northern Ireland voters are going to the polls on Thursday to select 18 MPs in the general election. A total of 138 candidates are standing across Northern Ireland and 1.2m people are eligible to vote. Sinn Fein's Paul Maskey pictured after casting his vote. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
First Minister Peter Robinson with DUP candidate Gavin Robinson for East Belfast, cast their vote in the at Elim Church in Dundonald.
A comical photo from Cairnshill Primary in Belfast where a polling station sign was stuck on top of a car parking sign. Pic: Julie McGovern-Peoples
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness leaves the polling station after casting his vote in Derry in the General Election. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 07.05.15
Goods are removed from 10 Downing Street, London, as Britain goes to the ballot box today in the most uncertain General Election for decades, with no party on course to emerge a clear winner. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 7, 2015. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Prime Minister David Cameron and wife Samantha leave after casting their votes at Spelsbury Memorial Hall, Witney, as Britain goes to the ballot box today in the most uncertain General Election for decades, with no party on course to emerge a clear winner. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 7, 2015. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Voters visit a polling station at Hanover Primary School, Islington, London, as Britain goes to the ballot box today in the most uncertain General Election for decades, with no party on course to emerge a clear winner. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 7, 2015. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: Rick Findler/PA Wire
Conservative candidate for Wirral West Esther McVey on the streets of West Kirkby on General Election Day. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 7, 2015. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Police officers stand outside a Polling station at Westminster Central Hall, London, as Britain goes to the ballot box today in the most uncertain General Election for decades, with no party on course to emerge a clear winner. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 7, 2015. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett (second right) arrives to cast her vote at Ossulston Tenants' Hall, London, as Britain goes to the ballot box today in the most uncertain General Election for decades, with no party on course to emerge a clear winner. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 7, 2015. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and his wife Justine arrive to cast their votes at Sutton village hall in Doncaster, as Britain goes to the ballot box today in the most uncertain General Election for decades, with no party on course to emerge a clear winner. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 7, 2015. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Protestors demonstrate as British Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party David Cameron (R) leaves with his wife Samantha after voting at a polling station in Spelsbury on May 7, 2015 as Britain holds a general election. Polls opened today in Britain's closest general election for decades with voters set to decide between the Conservatives of Prime Minister David Cameron, Ed Miliband's Labour and a host of smaller parties. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
Members of the public arrive at a polling station set up in Mattingley church hall in southern England, on May 7, 2015, as Britain holds a general election. Polls opened today in Britain's closest general election for decades with voters set to decide between the Conservatives of Prime Minister David Cameron, Ed Miliband's Labour and a host of smaller parties. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNISADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
Scotland's First Minister and Leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) Nicola Sturgeon (L) waves as she and her husband Peter Murrell cast their votes at the Broomhoouse Community Hall in Glasgow, Scotland, on May 7, 2015, as Britain holds a general election. Polls opened Thursday in Britain's closest general election for decades with voters set to decide between the Conservatives of Prime Minister David Cameron, Ed Miliband's Labour and a host of smaller parties. AFP PHOTO / ANDY BUCHANANAndy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the public looks at a dog tied to railings after voting at a polling station in Glasgow, Scotland, on May 7, 2015, as Britain holds a general election. Polls opened Thursday in Britain's closest general election for decades with voters set to decide between the Conservatives of Prime Minister David Cameron, Ed Miliband's Labour and a host of smaller parties. AFP PHOTO / IAN MACNICOLIan MacNicol/AFP/Getty Images
A dog is tied to railings at a polling station in Glasgow, Scotland, on May 7, 2015, as Britain holds a general election. Polls opened Thursday in Britain's closest general election for decades with voters set to decide between the Conservatives of Prime Minister David Cameron, Ed Miliband's Labour and a host of smaller parties. AFP PHOTO / IAN MACNICOLIan MacNicol/AFP/Getty Images
Members of the public arrive to vote at a polling station in Glasgow, Scotland, on May 7, 2015, as Britain holds a general election. Polls opened Thursday in Britain's closest general election for decades with voters set to decide between the Conservatives of Prime Minister David Cameron, Ed Miliband's Labour and a host of smaller parties. AFP PHOTO / IAN MACNICOLIan MacNicol/AFP/Getty Images
A woman attaches a sign directing voters to the polling station in the village of Sutton, near Doncaster, in northern England on May 7, 2015, as Britain holds a general election. Polls opened today in Britain's closest general election for decades with voters set to decide between the Conservatives of Prime Minister David Cameron, Ed Miliband's Labour and a host of smaller parties. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

As the dust settles on the general election and David Cameron gets back to work in Downing Street, Darwin Templeton looks at 10 questions that will be answered over the next 12 months.

1. Will Stormont survive?

The election campaign provided a distraction to the welfare reform deadlock, but it hasn’t gone away, you know. And the divisions could get deeper — the Conservatives, now with the Lib Dem handbrake removed, want to take another £12 billion out of the national welfare bill. If a new deal cannot be found in Northern Ireland, the Executive’s budget will be thrown into chaos — and the Assembly could collapse.

2. Has Sinn Fein support peaked?

The loss of Fermanagh and South Tyrone grabbed the headlines, but there were other worrying signs for the party. Their share of the vote shrank and high-profile challengers in Upper Bann, South Belfast and Foyle fell short. Abstentionism is a hard sell and in North Belfast Gerry Kelly found himself under pressure over a “sectarian” leaflet. Next year’s elections north and south of the border were always the bigger prize for Sinn Fein, but this was a far-from-ideal preparation. 

3. Will unionist hostilities resume?

Mike Nesbitt (pictured left) wasted no time in declaring the pact over — and was slammed by Sammy Wilson. The deal delivered seats for Gavin Robinson and Tom Elliott, but their failure to agree in South Belfast and the bitter contest in Upper Bann brought differences into focus. Mr Nesbitt will want to build on a good election — but, smarting from the loss of the Rev William McCrea, the DUP will be up for the battle. 

4. Is Alasdair McDonnell done?

After a bruising battle in South Belfast, the SDLP leader retained his seat, but with the lowest share of the vote in the Commons. The party kept its three MPs, but saw its overall vote slip again. On the back of a patchy performance in the campaign — including a late cry-off from the BBC leaders’ debate — some may be starting to look at other options. The problem is, are there any?

5. What will the double-jobbers do?

Sammy Wilson, Gregory Campbell, Danny Kinahan, Alasdair McDonnell and Tom Elliott — and their parties — have decisions to make. Under the new law, they can continue to double-job until the Assembly election. If returned as MLAs, they would get eight days to make their minds up about which house they want to sit in. But if they hedge their bets until then, they leave themselves — and their parties — open to criticism.

6. Any changes on the Stormont benches?

Alliance will surely want to get Naomi Long back on the frontline before long, while Michelle Gildernew (and Conor Murphy) would strengthen Sinn Fein’s line-up. Just who gives way is another question. The DUP’s Jonathan Bell looks certain for the health minister’s post. Looking further ahead, Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit has an Assembly seat in his sights after a strong showing in West Belfast and UKIP will fancy their chances.    

7. Will Naomi have the last laugh in East Belfast?

Gavin Robinson savoured his victory — but when the dust settles, unionists have much to ponder in East Belfast. Naomi Long amassed an extra 4,000 votes, further cementing the Alliance position. The UUP and the TUV have to reintroduce themselves to the electorate next year — will the voters they ‘lent’ to the DUP come back?

8. What now for the TUV?

The party hoped to prove that it could fight an election without Jim Allister on the ballot paper — and failed.  Their seven candidates pulled in just 16,000 votes and are now facing the challenge of UKIP. Indeed in four constituencies, they were beaten by the Eurosceptic party. Assembly elections are different of course — but could we see quiet discussions between Mr Allister and David McNarry?   

9. Will Peter Robinson hang around for it all?

Last September, the First Minister, angrily dismissed claims by his own colleague Edwin Poots that he would step down before the Stormont poll next year. Winning back East Belfast for the DUP was a top personal priority for the DUP leader, 66, and now that goal has been achieved, will he begin to think about an exit strategy? If he does, he will want to give the new leader time to put their stamp on the party before the election.

10. Finally, will anyone at Westminster care?

David Cameron put his shoulder to the wheel (briefly) in the final push for the Stormont House Agreement and was exasperated when it unravelled. Armed with a Conservative majority, he won’t have to rely on the support of DUP or UUP votes — and he will have one or two other things to occupy his time. Like cutting the deficit, containing the SNP and negotiating with Europe. Labour will be picking a new leader — and starting to rebuild.

Read more:

 

Unionists must put the UK above party advantage

Face it, after what's just happened in the polls, the only way is up  

Jonathan Bell tipped to be named today as Health Minister  

Cameron election honeymoon over with ultimatum over a deal on Europe

Double jobbing MPs Tom Elliott, Danny Kinahan, Alasdair McDonnell and Gregory Campbell to stand down from Assembly  

UUP leader Nesbitt 'will take action over taunts to David Simpson children'  

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