The first election to the modern Northern Ireland Assembly took place on 25 June 1998, just over a month after the referendum on the Agreement.
The outcome was a disappointment for the pro-Agreement parties, particularly the Ulster Unionists (led by David Trimble, who became first First Minister) and Alliance (led by John Alderdice, who became first new Assembly Speaker).
Unionists in total won 58 of 108 seats, but no fewer than 10 of those went to candidates from outside the main two. Then North Down MP Robert McCartney’s originally fairly moderate but ultimately anti-Agreement “UK Unionists” were the biggest surprise, securing five. With fewer than half of Unionist seats, the complex Assembly arithmetic often required the two PUP MLAs to back Mr Trimble.
Nationalists won 42 seats. In fact, the SDLP (led by John Hume overall but by new Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon at Stormont) scored the highest first-preference vote share, at 21.9%, and generally outpolled Sinn Fein everywhere except Belfast. (Sinn Féin had a similar split in leadership – overall the Party President was and is Gerry Adams, but Leader at Stormont was and is Martin McGuinness.)
Among the “neithers”, the Alliance Party had expected better than six seats, effectively losing two directly to the Women’s Coalition.