Sinn Fein poised for historic victory in Northern Ireland elections

BELFAST, Northern Ireland –

It was widely expected that the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein would become the largest group in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the first time, giving it the right to the post of Prime Minister in Belfast, as the vote count in the This week’s election resumed on Saturday.

A Sinn Fein victory would be a milestone for a party long linked to the Irish Republican Army, a paramilitary group that used bombs, bullets and other forms of violence to try to remove Northern Ireland from UK rule for decades. riots, in which the British Army and Royal Ulster Police, as well as Protestant loyalist militiamen, were also heavily involved.

A victory would bring Sinn Fein’s ultimate goal of a united Ireland one step closer. But the party has kept unification out of the spotlight during a campaign that has been dominated by more immediate concerns, namely the skyrocketing cost of living.

With around 51 of the 90 seats counted so far, the results showed that Sinn Fein has 18 seats, while the Democratic Unionist Party, which has been the largest in the Northern Ireland Assembly for two decades, has 14.

The centrist Alianza Party, which identifies neither as nationalist nor as unionist, has seen its support increase and is emerging as the other big winner of the elections. It has 10 seats so far.

Unionist parties have led the government since Northern Ireland was formed as a majority Protestant state in 1921.

While a Sinn Fein victory would be a historic turnaround showing declining support for unionist parties, it is far from clear what will happen next.

Under a compulsory power-sharing system created by the 1998 peace deal that ended decades of Catholic-Protestant conflict, the posts of prime minister and deputy prime minister are divided between the largest unionist party and the largest nationalist party.

Both posts must be filled for a government to function, but the Democratic Unionist Party has suggested that he might not serve under a Sinn Fein prime minister.

The DUP has also said it will refuse to join a new government unless there are major changes to post-Brexit border arrangements, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, which many unionists oppose.

Post-Brexit rules imposed customs and border controls on some goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. The deal was designed to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, a key pillar of the peace process.

But it has angered unionists, who say the new controls have created a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK that undermines its British identity.

In February, the DUP’s Paul Givan resigned as prime minister as post-Brexit tensions triggered a new political crisis in Northern Ireland.

Polling expert John Curtice, a professor of political science at the University of Strathclyde, said Northern Ireland’s results are a legacy of Brexit.

“The Unionist vote has become fragmented due to divisions within the community over whether the Northern Ireland Protocol is something that can be successfully amended or should be scrapped,” he wrote on the BBC website.

Persuading the DUP to join a new government will present British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with a headache, he added.

Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill said the party wanted to work “in partnership with others”.

“That’s the only way we’re going to accomplish much, much more for the people here, whether it’s in terms of the cost of living crisis or trying to fix our health service,” he said.

He also said that regarding the unification of Ireland, there will be no constitutional changes until the voters decide on it.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald said Friday that planning for any unity referendum could take place within the next five years.

Full results of the election, which uses a proportional representation system, were expected by the weekend.

The new legislators will meet next week to try to form an executive. If none can be formed within six months, the administration will collapse, leading to a new election and more uncertainty.

Leave a Comment