Sinn Féin, the former political front of the paramilitary group Era, will be able to appoint a local prime minister from among its ranks, for the first time in a century.
Before the Unionists had been in power for decades, the nationalist Sinn Fein party, which supports the reunification of Ireland, scored a historic victory in Northern Ireland on Saturday that marked a “new era”, despite the risk of political paralysis.
The victory allows Sinn Fein, the former political front for the paramilitary group Irish Republican Army (IRA), to appoint a local prime minister, for the first time in the history of a province so tense with Brexit in a hundred years.
With the long count of votes cast at the polls ending Thursday to name the 90 elected members of the local assembly, the nearly final results give Sinn Féin several seats ahead of his unionist rival, the pro-Crown Democratic Unionist Party.
Welcoming a “very important moment of change” as a “new era” has entered, Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland, 45-year-old Michelle O’Neill, has promised to overcome divisions.
“I will provide inclusive leadership, that celebrates diversity, that ensures rights and equality for those who have been excluded, discriminated against or ignored in the past,” she said.
In Belfast, the number so far has given Sinn Féin 27 of the 88 seats declared, compared to 24 for the DUP. It also received the most preferred vote (29% vs. 21.3%). Earlier in the day, the DUP had already admitted via its leader Jeffrey Donaldson that Sinn Fein was poised to become the assembly’s new dominant party. Nationalists and unionists will jointly lead the government under the 1998 peace agreement.
But government formation talks promise to be difficult and the risk of paralysis looms, as unionists refuse to join the government as long as post-Brexit customs controls remain, which they say threaten the integrity of the United States. United kingdom.
Jeffrey Donaldson insisted that “I want a government in Northern Ireland, but it must be based on stable foundations”, denouncing that the Northern Ireland Protocol negotiated by London and the European Union “harms the economy” and “political stability” of the territory.
Another party topic, Edwin Potts, warned that negotiations would take “weeks, with a little luck, or even months”, while the British minister in charge of the province, Brandon Lewis, was expected to arrive in Belfast soon.
Invite a ‘healthy debate’ about the future of Northern Ireland
“People have spoken and our job now is to show up,” said Michelle O’Neill. “I expect others to do the same.”
She called for a “healthy debate” about Northern Ireland’s future, saying the new executive must prioritize tackling the rising cost of living, after a campaign that insisted on social and societal issues rather than constitutional issues.
In a statement, Brandon Lewis called on all parties to form a “fully operational” “executive” as quickly as possible.
Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin stressed that it was up to “all political parties and elected officials” to “serve the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland”.
After three decades of bloody turmoil between unionists and republicans, Brexit-induced turmoil, Northern Ireland returned to uncertainty in February, with the resignation of unionist Prime Minister Paul Givian, unhappy with the post-Brexit situation. This automatically led to the departure of Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill.
“Sinn Fein’s success capitalizing on weak unionism (…) does not represent a fundamental change of opinion in Northern Ireland in favor of reunification,” analysis by AFP Katie Hayward, professor of political science at Queen’s University. Belfast. It also indicates a split in the vote of the unionists and the advance of the Centrist Alliance Party (17 seats).
Elsewhere in the UK, where local elections were held on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party suffered a severe setback, undermined by “the party gate” and inflation. He lost hundreds of seats and dozens of councils to the Labor Party and the Liberal Democrats.
Boris Johnson has said he is determined to stay in power. But these poor results weaken him and lead MPs from his camp worried about the 2024 legislative elections to question the advisability of continuing to support him.
In order to persuade, Boris Johnson will have to present a “real plan of action” on Tuesday during the traditional throne speech in which the government will reveal its priorities in Parliament, Simon Osherwood, a political science professor from the Open University, said in an interview with AFP.