northern Ireland is on the verge of having a nationalist leader for the first time in its history after Sinn Fein, once considered the political wing of the IRA, emerged as the largest party in regional elections.
Sinn Fein overtook the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) by voting for the province’s 90-member National Assembly, winning the most seats, 27, and securing the highest share of first preference votes. This compares with 25 seats for the DUP and 17 for the Alliance Party.
The counting of the votes ended early on Sunday, with all 90 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly now filled, according to the UK’s Palestinian Authority media news agency.
sense well it is now the largest party in the assembly and can appoint a prime minister for the first time. The party opposes Northern Ireland being part of the UK and is in favor of a united Ireland.
“Preparation for constitutional change in Ireland must begin now,” Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald told CNN on Friday evening as the results began to emerge. “We need to be aware that change is underway.
“It is my absolute determination that that change will be completely peaceful,” he added.
A clause in the Peace accords of 1998signed with the British and Irish governments after decades of deadly conflict known as The Troubles, stipulated that a referendum on Irish unification could be held if it appeared likely that a majority of voters would support it.
That day remains a distant prospect despite the results of Thursday’s vote. But the emergence of Sinn Fein as Northern Ireland’s largest party could still force a conversation around a so-called border poll.
Sinn Fein was once closely associated with the IRA, which fought a bloody three-decade military campaign to end British rule and unite the island of Ireland, though the party has since positioned itself as a political party of left-wing base focused on social issues in the north and south of the border.
The party is a candidate in the elections for the British parliament but does not take any seat that wins. Previously had a strong show in the 2020 general election in the Republic of Ireland.
His success in Thursday’s Northern Irish poll was aided by a slide from the DUP, which has held the post of prime minister since 2007 and has briefly supported Theresa May’s conservative government in Westminster since 2017.