Poll confirms Sinn Féin’s historic victory in Northern Ireland | International

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The long and tedious counting of the votes of the regional elections in Northern Ireland, held last Thursday, has finally confirmed this Saturday a historic turn, anticipated by the polls, and the sustained trend of the first ballots. Sinn Féin, considered for decades the political arm of the IRA terrorist organization, has become the first formation of the Stormont Autonomous Assembly.

Upon reaching the magical figure of 26 seats, it was already mathematically impossible for its rivals to take the advantage from the Republicans – the BBC anticipated at 8:00 p.m. this Saturday that it would even obtain 27 seats. Its candidate, Michelle O’Neill, has announced a very important “moment of change”: “Today begins a new era that offers us all the opportunity to re-imagine the relationships of this society, on the basis of equality and justice social,” said O’Neill.

The Republican winner should occupy the position of Chief Minister of the Autonomous Executive, as established in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to that British territory. The determination of the unionist parties, —whose division has caused them to lose the most voted position for the first time— in demanding that the British Government unilaterally get rid of the Ireland Protocol that it signed with the EU anticipates months of blockade and political instability.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has not yet clarified whether its candidate, Jeffrey Donaldson, will take the seat of Deputy Chief Minister, thus allowing autonomous institutions to function again. “I will allow the negotiations to open, but I will not appoint ministers until the issue of the Protocol is resolved,” Donaldson anticipated, admitting his defeat, even before the vote confirmed it. The unionists consider that this international treaty was a betrayal of Johnson to his cause, and distanced them further from the United Kingdom by imposing the permanence of Northern Ireland in the internal market of the EU and creating a new customs control in the Irish Sea. His rivals suspect that it is the excuse for not admitting that, after almost a quarter of a century of dominating the autonomous institutions, it is now up to them to occupy a secondary position. The DUP has gone from having 28 seats to being in second place.

The third most powerful force in the elections has been the Alliance, which has managed to more than double the seven seats it had in the Autonomous Assembly. Its members define themselves as a progressive formation, more interested in solving the problems of citizenship such as the cost of living or the deficiencies in Northern Ireland’s public health and education than in reviving the permanent sectarian battle between greens and oranges. Their social message was very similar to that of Sinn Féin, but they are not tainted by a past linked to violence, and have been very attractive to a middle-class vote that seeks to overcome the division of society.

Unionism suspects that the ultimate will of Sinn Féin will be to advance the agenda of a referendum to unify the island. The leader of the party, Mary Lou McDonald, – who already managed to be the most voted force in the General Elections of the Republic of Ireland held in 2020 – does not hide that this is the main objective of the formation, but relegates it to an indefinite future . “This has been the vote for change and for the defense of understanding. The vote of a generation. Now it’s time to work, ”she told the BBC. “Brexit has shown us that these decisions must be planned in time and in detail,” she warned.

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The Johnson Government finished off the terrible electoral expectations of unionism hours before the polls opened. The British minister for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, ruled out that Downing Street’s short-term plans contemplated a legislative change that would give ministers powers to unilaterally alter the Ireland Protocol, something that would have sparked the ire of Brussels, and that the Government of the United Kingdom seriously considered in recent weeks.

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