Sinn Fein have emerged as the largest party in Northern Ireland after this British election, taking 171,000 votes overall to the DUP's 168,000.

If repeated in the Assembly elections next year it would mean that Sinn Fein would elect the First Minister of Northern Ireland,a remarkable turn of events.

Back in 1980, before the hunger strikes, Sinn Fein were at about 2 per cent of the overall vote in Northern Ireland elections.

In a generation they have come from utter political obscurity to leading parry.
Who said Northern Ireland elections were predictable?

Almost unnoticed as well is that Sinn Fein contender Gerry Kelly came within 1,500 votes or so of causing a massive upset in Northern Belfast where Nigel Dodds of the DUP barely held him off.

A victory there would have been an extraordinary outcome, arguably as big an upset as Peter Robinson losing his seat.

There is really no secret to the success. It is leadership and hard work.

While the other nationalist party, the SDLP, built a cult of personality around John Hume and suffered greatly when he left the stage.

Sinn Fein always had a collective leadership that picked the right candidates in the right places.

Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams,(pictured),always insisted on grassroots politics and local personalities an dsharing the limelight as a prerequisite for success

The unionist parties,especially the Ulster Unionist Party, became complacent after decades of being top dogs.

Their political mindset could simply not countenance such dramatic changes in the landscape as have occurred and they were always reacting rather than acting.

Into the gap drove the Sinn Fein machine which has quickly capitalized on the weaknesses in other parties and now has a real shot at the top job in Northern Ireland next year.

Who would have thunk it as they say in The Bronx?