Four questions about the historic victory of the Nationalist Party Sinn Fein in the parliamentary elections

The polls were correct. The nationalist party Sinn Fein, a supporter of Ireland’s reunification, scored a historic victory, Saturday 7 May in Northern Ireland, during the legislative elections.

After a long count, Sinn Fein won 27 seats in Stormont’s local assembly, with 90 renewed in Thursday’s poll, against 25 for his unionist rival, the pro-Crown Democratic Unionist Party. The other big winner is the Centrist Alliance party, which is making strong progress, with 17 seats.

In what context does this historical turning point occur? What will happen now? Will this electoral success pave the way for the reunification of Ireland? response elements.

1In what context is this victory?

As a reminder, Ireland has been divided into two parts since 1921 and the War of Independence. The partition between the north associated with the United Kingdom and the south – which makes up the Republic of Ireland – led to three decades of bloody turmoil (between the end of the 1960s and the end of the 1990s) between Nationalists (Catholics), supporters of reunification, and unionists and Loyalists (Protestants), defenders of Northern Ireland’s association with the British Crown . The 1998 Good Friday Agreement brought an end to this civil war that had killed 3,500 people. Since then, the government of Northern Ireland must be run jointly by Nationalists and Trade Unionists.

Brexit has disrupted this fragile balance. In April 2021, and then last February, the two unionist prime ministers of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster and Paul Givvan, unhappy with the situation after Brexit, resigned, again paralyzing the local executive (the British province was already empty). government or parliament between 2017 and 2020).

The re-imposition of customs controls in Northern Ireland’s ports, as if the border between the EU and the UK lay in the Irish Sea, is rejected by the Federalists, as opposed to a measure that places them symbolically on the sidelines. away from the mother country.

2How do you fare Sinn Fein?

Historically, Sinn Fein is the former political front of the paramilitary group Irish Republican Army (IRA). How did he manage to forget this label? with power sharing, “He has succeeded in establishing himself as a credible political force” And she campaigned not on reunification but on “Social and Economic Issues” More carriers within the electorate, explains in RFI Agnès Maillot, Professor at University of Dublin (Dublin City University).

This transformation was brought about in particular by the character of Michelle O’Neill, the former First Deputy Minister of Northern Ireland and Vice-President of Sinn Fein, who should inherit the position of Prime Minister. as written Releaseit’s there “The first leader of the party (…) who had no direct connection to the IRA: she was barely of age when the war ended”.

The party also benefited from the decline of the Federalist Party, the biggest loser in Brexit. After forcing Theresa May not to accept any “deal” that would bring about preferential treatment for Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the United Kingdom, he saw Boris Johnson send all his promises to shreds once elected. “wrapped with flour”DUP lost in “credibility” He was punished at the polls as a loser Voters on his right and his left.analysis on RFI Christoph Gilesen, Professor of British and Irish Civilization at the University of Caen, Normandy.

3What will happen now?

Michelle O’Neill promised to overcome divisions. “I will provide inclusive leadership that celebrates diversity, ensuring rights and equality for those who have been excluded, discriminated against or ignored in the past”She said hello ‘A very important moment of change’ with entry to “new era”.

But government formation talks promise to be difficult and the risk of paralysis looms as unionists – who are returning to the post of deputy prime minister – are refusing to join a post-Brexit government. DUP heavyweight Edwin Potts has warned that negotiations will take “Hopefully weeks, or even months”.

London, like Dublin, called on nationalists and trade unionists to unite in a local executive to ensure “More” from the British Territory.

4Do these results pave the way for reunification?

Although Sinn Fein has not campaigned on the issue, party leader Mary Lou MacDonald said on Friday she believed a referendum on Irish reunification could be held within the next five years. At this point, specialists are cautious. It is the British Minister in charge of the Territory, Brandon Lewis, who technically has to launch the referendum process. “He will only do it if he feels there is a majoritynotes to franceinfo Fabrice Morlon, professor at the New Sorbonne. However, according to recent polls, about 30% of the people of Northern Ireland support reunification.

“Reunification may happen one day, but more likely naturally than if the two parties made it a subject.”

Fabrice Morlon, Professor at the New Sorbonne University

in franceinfo

The researcher notes the emergence of the centrist coalition party in these elections: “He doesn’t play on the sectarian side, the Northern Irish are tired of the lack of institutions.” We are no longer in a binary mode., abound in RFI Agnes Maillot. Belief that Sinn Fein has been achieved “glass roof” With its 27 seats, it highlights the progress made in the population “Which claims neither unity nor nationalism, and which is content with the current situation. The voters want an independent local government that operates and manages daily life.” On housing, economic and environmental issues.

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