With 25.5% of the vote SF beat the DUP by 3,700 to get the highest vote of all parties (helped, of course, by DUP absence in FST and North Down). That’s the first time ever in General Elections. (One of the things you wonder about late at night is what would have happened in 1921 with today’s demography?)
Obviously FST was the highlight although the falling nationalist turnout there and, indeed, everywhere must be a big worry to the party – Total SF vote 172k cf. 180k in Assembly 2007 and 174k in Westminster 2005.
Apart from holding what they had SF’s big effort came in North Belfast – Kelly now within 2224 votes of Dodds (interestingly UCUNF not squeezed here, although below the SDLP.). If this constituency exists at the next GE (and the coalition could fall apart over Coulson or AV or appalling Lib Dem results in Scottish and Welsh elections) then SF are favourites IMHO.
As to becoming the biggest party in the Assembly? It does look like that relies on UCUNF / TUV & Alliance revivals and some nationalist co-operation in the Antrim seats outside Belfast. The game changing outcome would be for SF to become the biggest party and nominate a Unionist First Minister……what odds could I get on that?