Political leaders deliver eve of poll messages ahead of Assembly elections

·4-min read

Northern Ireland’s political leaders have been delivering eve of poll messages ahead of the Stormont Assembly elections.

Voters will go to the polls across 18 constituencies on Thursday to elect 90 MLAs.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson spent his final day canvassing in Belfast while Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill spent time in Mid Ulster.

ULSTER Election
(PA Graphics)

Opinion polls have suggested Sinn Fein is likely to top the poll, and the Alliance Party is tipped to have a surge in support.

If translated into results, expected to start being announced from Friday afternoon, it would be the first time a nationalist or republican party has finished top at Stormont and could nominate a first minister.

Sir Jeffrey described the election as “a choice between real action on issues that matter to people or a divisive border poll plan”.

He described the outcome of the election as “critical to the future of Northern Ireland”.

“Only a first preference vote for the DUP can stop SF’s divisive border poll plans. After voting 1 DUP, I ask pro-union voters to maximise the value of their votes by transferring to other pro-union candidates,” he said.

Ms O’Neill described a “moment in history” and one for “real change”.

She said she wants to become a first minister for all.

“On day one after this election Sinn Fein will be ready to form an executive and get down to business,” she said.

“Our MLAs will deliver right across the whole community, for everyone. Our focus will be on our common ground.

“On Thursday 5 May, you can elect a first minister for all by voting Sinn Fein.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood visited a number of constituencies on the final day of canvassing to support his candidates.

He is the only party leader who is not running for election on Thursday. He is currently the MP for Foyle.

Mr Eastwood appealed for votes for his party, saying more SDLP MLAs “will mean that next Assembly addresses soaring fuel, food and energy bills, tackles the waiting list crisis and puts you and your family first”.

“To make it happen, vote SDLP tomorrow,” he said.

UUP leader Doug Beattie said his party is offering a “confident, positive, pro-union alternative that will work for everyone”.

“Walking away from Stormont won`t solve the problem. The protocol needs to be replaced with a solution that works for everyone so that we can focus on rebuilding the NHS, boosting economic recovery and tackling the rising cost of living. Politicians should not be abandoning their posts at this time,” he said.

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said her party is strongly tipped to make a “seismic breakthrough, one that could change the way Stormont works”.

“History is there to be made on Thursday. But only your first preferences can ensure it,” she said.

Polling stations are set to open at 7am on Thursday, and remain open for voters to cast their ballots until 10pm.

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