Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris hopes to see Stormont Assembly return alongside councils

Chris Heaton-Harris was speaking as he congratulated successful candidates in the council election.

The secretary of state said it remains his hope that the Stormont institutions can be restored, as he congratulated successful candidates in the Northern Ireland council elections.

Chris Heaton-Harris was speaking after the counting of votes in the local government poll was completed on Saturday evening.

The election saw Sinn Féin emerge as the largest party in councils for the first time with 144 seats, an increase of 39.

The DUP returned the same number of councillors it had previously with 122, Alliance became the third largest party in councils as it increased its total to 67, the UUP fell to 54 seats while the SDLP fell to 39, and there were 36 others.

Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O'Neill says the results send the message that voters in Northern Ireland want to see the return of the Assembly and Executive.

In a statement Mr Heaton-Harris said: “Congratulations to all who have been elected to represent the people of Northern Ireland as local councillors.

“Stable and accountable local government is the best way of delivering on the issues that matter most to the people of Northern Ireland. Alongside the new councils, it remains my hope to see the Assembly and Executive return to work, as laid out in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

"I remain in close contact with the parties and will continue to do everything I can to facilitate the restoration of the Executive.”

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