by RAY FLEMING
THERE are fears that voter apathy will be the main factor in today's elections in Northern Ireland. The people of the province have certainly had their fill of politics in recent times but hopefully they will decide to turn out once more because on this occasion the outcome is balanced on a knife edge. Each of the four parties, two Catholic and two Protestant, has a chance of obtaining substantial representation in the Northern Ireland Assembly and participating in the devolved government. A less appealing scenario is that if the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) were to do well the prospect of further progress along the road of the Good Friday Agreement would be blocked. When the election was called it was thought that David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party was in danger of losing ground among Protestants to Mr Paisley's DUP. But the prospect of the ranting reverend and his son taking charge of Northern Ireland's fortunes may be enough to get moderate Unionists to the polls in support of Mr Trimble. In Catholic communities Gerry Adams' Sinn Fein may for the first time gain more seats than the Social Democrats who no longer have the Nobel Peace Prize winner, John Hume, or his deputy Seamus Mallon, leading them. Tony Blair sent a message to the people of Northern Ireland yesterday, urging them to vote so that the Good Friday agreement can be fully implemented. He said bluntly that matters were now out of his hands “I cannot renegotiate agreements, I cannot rewrite those things that have been agreed.” And he suggested, as he has done many times before, that people should ask themselves whether Northern Ireland is now a better place than a decade ago - and vote accordingly.