NI election: South Belfast - Sinn Fein's O Muilleoir hails rainbow coalition that helped him triumph over 'politics of fear'
Former Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir accused the DUP of a "dark and fearful" election campaign as he romped home in South Belfast with an increased vote.
It came as DUP candidates Christopher Stalford and Emma Little Pengelly were left with an anxious wait until the very end of the count to discover whether they had successfully defended their seats.
Ms Little Pengelly conceded defeat shortly after 1am this morning, saying she "hasn't done enough" to be elected, even though the result had not been declared.
The urban constituency proved to be one of the slowest counts in Northern Ireland, with just three MLAs deemed elected by 10.30pm.
The SDLP's Claire Hanna polled strongly, and was second elected at stage six, although the party's vote was simply not strong enough to realise its hope of reclaiming its second seat lost by Fearghal McKinney last year.
The Alliance Party is likely to be pleased with a strong performance from candidate Paula Bradshaw, who was elected along with Ms Hanna at stage six.
However, all eyes were on the DUP and Green Party in the epic battle for the final two seats in the constituency.
There was little to separate Mr Stalford and Ms Little Pengelly, with the Greens' Clare Bailey just behind them.
Last night there was speculation that the DUP may lose out, with Ms Bailey more likely to benefit with transfers from Alliance and the SDLP.
Ms Bailey was one of just two Green MLAs along with Steven Agnew who were elected to the Assembly just eight months ago.
Last night she admitted feeling extreme nerves about the result, and told the Belfast Telegraph that she felt it was too close to call.
There was a loud cheer from Sinn Fein supporters after the first count as it was revealed that Mr O Muilleoir had received 7,610 votes - well up on the 5,207 he got last year.
The jubilant Sinn Fein man was the only candidate to reach the 7,176 quota.
Mr O Muilleoir said he did not expect the extra 2,000 votes, but said he believed they came from different parts of the political spectrum.
"It's a vote that reaches wider than the republican and nationalist community in South Belfast, although they came out in big numbers, very ebullient and determined not to be knocked around," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"I would like to think my vote was a peace-building vote.
"It was ethnic minorities, peace makers, the gay community, arts community - a broad spectrum, a rainbow coalition saying they want to stand up for equality.
"There is now a real united nations vote in South Belfast like never before, that's particularly following the Brexit vote.
"People voted for the bright future I put forward instead of the dark and fearful past that the DUP offered."
He added that he thought his surplus vote went mostly to the SDLP and Green Party.
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