Sinn Fein, the IRA’s former political wing, hailed its first election victory in Northern Ireland’s history as a “defining moment” for the British-controlled region and called for a debate on the establishment of a united Ireland.
Official results showed that Sinn Fein received 29 percent of first-preference votes, while the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) received 21.3 percent. While the final seat count has not been announced, analysts believe Sinn Fein cannot be caught.
“Today marks a watershed moment in history.” “It’s a watershed moment in our politics and for our people,” said Michelle O’Neill, the regional party’s leader.
She stated that a “honest debate” should now take place regarding the party’s goal of unifying the territory with the Republic of Ireland.
When asked if she expected to become the region’s first Irish nationalist Prime Minister, she replied, “The people have spoken.”
The victory of Sinn Fein will not change the region’s status because the referendum required to leave the United Kingdom is at the discretion of the British government and will most likely take years.
However, the symbolic implications of Irish nationalist dominance are enormous, bringing an end to a century of dominance by pro-British parties supported primarily by the region’s Protestant population.
The election confirms demographic trends that have long predicted that pro-British Protestant parties would be supplanted by predominantly Catholic Irish nationalist parties who favor reuniting the north with the Republic of Ireland.
The cross-community Alliance Party, on the other hand, achieved its best-ever result as it seeks to establish itself as a third pillar of the political system.
While the largest party has the right to nominate a candidate for First Minister of the region’s mandatory power-sharing government, disagreements with the DUP mean such an appointment could take months.