Sinn Fein hails the “new era” for Northern Ireland after historical polls

On Saturday, Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill hailed a “new era” for Northern Ireland as pro-British trade unionists admitted a historic election victory for her Irish nationalist party, again threatening to boycott the devolved government. .

“This is a defining moment for our politics and our people,” O’Neill said before the full results were announced.

“I will provide inclusive leadership, which celebrates diversity, which guarantees rights and equality for those who have been excluded, discriminated against or ignored in the past.”

The counts of Thursday’s complex proportional vote were shown sense wellthe former political wing of the IRA paramilitary group, had secured at least 23 seats for the 90-seat legislature, setting it on the road to victory.

Sinn Fein will have enough seats to appoint O’Neill as prime minister, a century after Northern Ireland carved out a Protestant fiefdom under British rule.

“People have talked and now our work has to show up. I expect others to show up too,” O’Neill told reporters, noting that the new government is primarily facing a UK cost of living crisis.

But he said “a healthy conversation is already underway” on Irish reunification and the party is aiming for a referendum within the next five years.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson admitted that his nationalist rivals looked set to “emerge as the largest party”, with the DUP winning 21 seats so far.

The DUP served as prime minister in Stormont’s outgoing assembly, before bringing down the executive to protest post-Brexit trade rules between the UK and the EU.

‘long shadow’

Donaldson asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “keep his word to honor the commitments he has made and take necessary action” on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He called for “decisive action by the government to remove the border with the Irish Sea, because we do not consider it acceptable or necessary to have controls on goods circulating within the United Kingdom”.

While Sinn Fein will appoint a prime minister, Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government cannot be formed unless the DUP agrees to take part in it.

“I want a government in Northern Ireland, but it has to be built on a solid foundation,” Donaldson said.

“And the long shadow of the Northern Ireland Protocol is hurting our economy, it’s hurting political stability.”

READ ALSO: UK voters go to the polls with Northern Ireland’s historic result predicted

Johnson’s Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis was due to meet with party leaders in Belfast on Monday.

The winning parties will have 24 weeks to resolve their differences or face a new election.

England, Wales and Scotland also voted in local and regional elections on Thursday, punishing conservatives tainted by Johnson’s scandals, but without a landslide victory for the main opposition Labor party.

Johnson is expected to lay out his post-election plans in the Queen’s speech in parliament on Tuesday, which will have to take into account the thorny issue of forming a government in Northern Ireland, torn apart by sectarian bloodshed for decades.

The other big winner in Northern Ireland was the cross-community Alliance party, which said its strong position in third place with at least 15 seats underscored the need for Northern Ireland to overcome old divisions.

“We are serious about making Stormont work. We are not interested in playing games, ”Alliance leader Naomi Long said, noting that voters were more concerned about the cost of living crisis.

‘angry unionism’

Doug Beattie, leader of the once dominant Ulster Unionist Party that fought in the elections, said many voters were tired of “angry and negative unionism”.

“It may take some time to change that psyche,” Beattie told reporters.

“It could very well be a supertanker with a large turning radius. But we have to do it. “

Katy Hayward, a professor of political sociology at Queen’s University in Belfast, said it would be “extraordinary and highly significant to have a nationalist party that holds the most seats in the assembly.”

He said any referendum on Irish reunification was somehow far off, but that Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney is also expected to come to Northern Ireland with Lewis on Monday.

“The success of Sinn Fein, if nothing else, underscores the importance of the Irish dimension. There can be no solution unilaterally devised by the UK government, “Hayward told AFP.