Belfast: The balance of power at Stormont is being maintained with the two main parties achieving similar levels of support as in the last election. There had been some speculation that Sinn Fein could close the gap in the number of seats with Democratic Unionists but that did not happen.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) went to the polls with 38 MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) and has returned with the same figure. Sinn Féin held 29 seats before the election and the party now has 28.

Other results (with figures from the last election in brackets) were as follows: Ulster Unionist Party (UUP): 16 (16); Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP): 12 (14); Alliance Party of Northern Ireland: 8 (8); Green Party: 2 (1); People Before Profit Alliance: 2 (0); Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV): 1 (1); Independents 1 (1).

The big surprise was in the republican heartland constituency of Belfast West, radical left candidate Gerry Carroll of the People Before Profit Alliance got elected at the head of the poll. The 28-year-old rejects the nationalist and unionist labels, describing himself as a “revolutionary socialist”.

The SDLP's Alex Attwood held his seat in Belfast West by a tight margin of 89 votes over DUP contender Frank McCoubrey. Sinn Féin won four of the six seats in the same constituency, down one since the last Assembly election in 2011.

Long-time radical campaigner on civil rights and other social and political issues, Eamonn McCann, who first ran for election 46 years ago, also won a seat on the People Before Profit Alliance ticket in the Foyle (mainly the city of Derry/Londonderry) constituency. 

This was the first time for PBPA candidates to be elected to the Assembly, where they are expected to sit in the so-called "naughty corner" reserved for smaller parties and independents. 

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness topped the poll in Foyle. It was his first time running in his native Derry.  

However, Maeve McLaughlin, who had taken over as a Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle from Martina Anderson in 2012, lost her seat. The SDLP's Gerard Diver also lost his seat in Foyle.

In overall terms the election was seen as a success for the first woman leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Arlene Foster, who took over from Peter Robinson last December. 

During the election campaign, Ms Foster stressed the need for the DUP to retain its position as the biggest party and warned against Sinn Féin taking the lead in the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

Although dubbed "Project Fear" by the DUP's critics, the strategy seems to have prevented a leakage of votes to the rival  Ulster Unionist Party led by former TV presenter Mike Nesbitt.

There will be some disappointment in Sinn Féin ranks at the failure to to increase the party's representation. Reaching the key figure of 30 seats, for example, would have enabled the party to lay "petitions of concern" before the Assembly to block measures which did not have substantial cross-community support.

The results were seen as somewhat disappointing for the SDLP. Party leader Colum Eastwood (33), who took over from Alasdair McDonnell last year, held his seat in Foyle but deputy leader Fearghal McKinney was ousted in South Belfast where Sinn Féin's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir topped the poll and got elected on the fifth count.

The election was the first opportunity to vote given to people born in the year of the GoodFriday Agreement of 1998.

The Assembly emerged from that historic Agreement and has legislative powers on issues that are not reserved to Westminster.

Ministerial posts in the power-sharing executive are shared between different parties with a view to ensuring that both unionist and nationalist communities are fairly represented.