In Northern Ireland, for the first time in its history, the left-wing nationalist Sinn Féin party, which had among its goals the reunification of Ireland with Northern Ireland, will win a majority of seats in Parliament. It’s a result that polls have been predicting for weeks, but still considered historic: according to many observers, it could help make the plan more inclined toward Irish reunification. However, at least for now, it doesn’t seem like an imminent possibility. The results are not yet final, but the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, a union party and ally of Britain’s Conservative Party, has already conceded victory in Sinn Fein.
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In Thursday’s elections, a vote was taken to renew 90 seats in the country’s unicameral parliament, for which UK law guarantees a certain autonomy from the British Parliament. The turnout was 63.6 percent, slightly lower than in the 2017 elections.
The long counting periods (at present about two-thirds of the seats are allotted) is due to the fact that in Northern Ireland they vote with the ‘single transferable vote’ system: it allows voters to preferably place several candidates and so that, through successive recounts, certain votes can be allotted Candidates identified on the ballot paper are in second place or even higher. The results discussed thus far relate only to the so-called “first preferences”.
Having secured the majority of seats in Parliament, Sinn Fein will now have to appoint the next prime minister, of the two who will rule the country. Unlike other countries, in fact, in Northern Ireland there are two Prime Ministers, who have absolutely equal powers and in fact constitute a kind of binary system: they must rule together, and if one resigns, the position of the other also ends automatically. It is a very special way of governance that was outlined with the Good Friday Agreements of 1998, the one that ended the civil war that marked the country’s thirty-year history, the so-called Problems: The idea was to allow the leaders of the two opposing factions, the Unionists and the Nationalists, to rule together and agree on the interests of their constituents.
The main novelty, which is considered a historical event, relates to the fact that since 1921, that is, since the existence of Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister has always been of union origin. Since 2007, it has been expressed by the Democratic Unionist Party, but now it will be of national origin, precisely expressed by Sinn Féin, a party with a special and somewhat controversial history.
Sinn Féin in Gaelic means “ourselves”: the party was founded in 1905 on the initiative of Irish journalist Arthur Griffiths. From its early years of activity, its aim was to achieve full Irish national self-determination and sovereignty, which should have passed through the end of the then-in force political union with Great Britain. Sinn Fein then fought for independence from Great Britain during the so-called “Easter Uprising” of 1916, which ended with the defeat of the rioters, supported the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence from Great Britain, and seceded due to various divisions. In 1921, when the island was divided and Northern Ireland was created.
Sinn Fein conflict continued in the late 1960s and late 1990s during the civil war in the Republic of Iraq Problems: In recent years, he has been very close to the paramilitary organization IRA (Irish Republican Army), which is practically his armed wing and which was seen as a kind of parliamentary counterpart.
During the campaign for this election, Sinn Féin was quite able to distance himself from the most controversial aspect of his history: the current leadership has in fact moved away from the question of unification to focus everything on the so-called issues. Bread and butter (“bread and butter”), i.e. close to people’s daily lives: health care, unemployment, rising costs of living, housing issues. The fact that the party had changed a lot from the generational point of view also contributed to that, since it is now mainly made up of people who grew up years later. Problemswho never participated in the violence and actually gained their political experience in the years following the peace agreements that ended it.
According to various analyzes, all this contributed to the success of Sinn Féin, and this is also why, at least for the time being, the referendum on the reunification of Ireland does not seem imminent: it is still a very contentious issue and in opinion polls involving the reunification of the entire population it is considered a priority by Only a minority, estimated at 17 percent. The fact remains that a Sinn Fein victory, combined with the gradual strengthening of the SNP, will help make the UK look more divided than ever.
The weakening of the DUP, the main unionist party, which has dominated Northern Ireland politics in recent decades, also contributed to Sinn Fein’s victory.
The loss of consensus in the DUP is mainly related to Brexit: the DUP is a close ally of the British Conservative Party and has strongly supported the UK’s exit from the European Union. However, in recent years it has received increasing criticism from its proponents for having indirectly contributed to the approval of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the treaty on state status contained in the broader agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union on Britain’s exit from the European Union. The protocol states that Northern Ireland will remain in both the European Common Market and the customs union: in effect, it has alienated Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom. For this reason, many DUP supporters meanwhile turned to other union parties, disappointed with the lack of foresight shown by the alliance with the British Conservatives.
Pending the final election results in Northern Ireland, long and intense negotiations to appoint the two prime ministers are already envisioned. Books “For the Formation of a New Executive in Northern Ireland” guardianIt may take up to six months, but it is also possible that voting will start again in the winter. The latter hypothesis could occur if the DUP – the second most voted party – chose not to take part in the government along with Sinn Féin, as it appears at the moment.