NI European election result decided after marathon count

Final European election results being announced
Image caption The final European election result was declared after a long counting process

So three years after the last furore over delays to the Stormont Assembly poll and Northern Ireland bringing up the rear on the UK-wide AV referendum, we have all been subjected to another marathon count.

Is it all down to our proportional representation system which causes similar delays south of the border?

Is it our lack of technology, insufficient staff or can you simply not get fast counters any more, now bank tellers are a dying breed?

The Northern Ireland Office retains responsibility for elections.

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Image caption The European election count lasted a total of more than 24 hours

After thanking the counting staff for their two days of hard work, the NIO minister Andrew Robathan pledged to "work with the chief electoral officer, Electoral Commission and the Northern Ireland parties to examine ways of speeding up the counting process, including looking at the possibility of introducing e-counting to Northern Ireland".

In two years' time, when the next Assembly poll takes place, will I be pointing to this blog as evidence nothing has changed?

After the long count it was hard to work up much enthusiasm for analysing the outcome of the election.

But the exercise remains worthwhile, as the statistics will have an influence on the decisions our politicians take in the coming months.

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Image caption Martina Anderson (right) was the first MEP to be elected, having topped the poll

Sinn Féin's vote may be slightly down in percentage terms, but they have reason to feel extremely buoyant given they are now set to have a four-strong European parliamentary group.

By contrast, for the SDLP the thought of winning back John Hume's seat appears ever more fanciful.

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Image caption The DUP celebrated Diane Dodds being elected

After experiencing a slight slump in the local elections, the DUP have reason to feel more satisfied with the European result.

Only they and Alliance were able to celebrate an increase in their share of the vote.

The Ulster Unionists had some of the shine taken off their local government "comeback" by a decrease in their European election showing.

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Image caption The UUP's Jim Nicholson (centre) was the final MEP to be elected from Northern Ireland

Despite that, they will be breathing a sigh of relief at still having an MEP as that's vital, not just for the party's status, but also its finances.

The TUV vote dipped in percentage terms.

However Jim Allister's 75,806 votes - coupled with his 13 councillors - will be a reminder to the DUP of the dangers of any radical shift towards the centre.

Of the smaller parties, UKIP probably has most reason to cheer.

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Image caption The SDLP's Alex Attwood was the last candidate to be excluded at the final stage

Henry Reilly's 24,584 votes will give them hope of making a breakthrough in the 2016 Stormont election.

There's talk of a potential window of opportunity for the Stormont politicians to try to resolve their differences over flags, parades, the past and welfare reform.

Obviously it's easier to make compromises when you aren't facing straight into a campaign.

However, Sinn Féin's focus on politics south of the border will still make it reluctant to endorse any decision on welfare reform which could be portrayed as inconsistent with its anti-austerity agenda.

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Image caption TUV leader Jim Allister will continue to put pressure on the DUP

Meanwhile, the DUP will continue to look over their shoulders at the TUV, PUP and UKIP when it comes to those post-Haass issues.

Which reminds me.

During our long live election programme on Monday, Arlene Foster told me to stop referring to "Haass" talks and issues as the American chairman has now made it clear he won't return.

While she promised to come back with a suitable one-word shorthand to replace "Haass", she has not yet provided a suggestion.

Has anyone out there got a (preferably printable) alternative?

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