Northern Irish party leaders cast votes in General Election

Northern Ireland’s political leaders have cast their votes in the General Election.

Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster voted in Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh, a constituency where she is supporting a rival unionist as part of pro-Union link-up to try to unseat Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill cast her ballot 40 miles away in her home village of Clonoe in Co Tyrone.

General Election 2019
Sinn Fein s Michelle O’Neill offers members of the media some cakes after casting her vote in Co Tyrone (Niall Carson/PA)

She called in to have a chat with party workers who have based themselves in a caravan outside the polling station all day.

In several seats, the republican party has joined forces with fellow pro-Remain parties the SDLP and Greens to a maximise the chances of defeating DUP Brexiteers.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood was accompanied by wife Rachael and their children Maya and Rosa as he voted in Londonderry.

General Election 2019
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood with his family after voting at Model Primary School (SDLP/PA)

While Mr Eastwood’s party has stood aside to help a Sinn Fein candidate in North Belfast – a move that has been reciprocated by Sinn Fein in South Belfast – the parties are going head-to-head in Derry in what is set to be a close run battle for the Foyle seat.

Elsewhere, Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken arrived at Upper Ballyboley Primary School in East Antrim to cast his ballot along with wife Beth.

Alliance leader Naomi Long voted shortly afterwards in East Belfast.

General Election 2019
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long and her husband Michael after voting at St Colmcille’s School in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mrs Long, accompanied by her husband Michael, is hoping for a repeat of her famous victory in 2010 when she dethroned Stormont’s then-first minister Peter Robinson.

More than 1,000 polling stations across Northern Ireland opened at 7am to decide 18 constituency races. Voting will end at 10pm.

A number of stations reported a brisk voting pace through the morning.

There are 102 candidates standing in the election, with 1,293,971 eligible voters able to cast their ballots.

Counting will begin at four centres in Belfast, Magherafelt, Omagh and Bangor shortly after 10pm, with the first results expected around 1am.

General Election 2019
Ulster Unionist party leader Steve Aiken and his wife Bev arrive to cast his vote at Upper Ballyboley Primary School in Ballyclare (Liam McBurney/PA)

The DUP is hoping to return with at least the 10 MPs they won in 2017 – a result that landed them a pivotal role as Westminster kingmakers and led to their confidence and supply deal with the last Conservative Government.

Sinn Fein won seven seats at the last General Election and have said they hope to make gains on Thursday, while the 18th outgoing MP, independent Lady Sylvia Hermon, has stepped down.

The UUP, SDLP and Alliance are all hoping to make a return to the green benches in the House of Commons.

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