Historic election result in Northern Ireland as Sinn Fein wins most seats for first time

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Sinn Fein has become the biggest party at Stormont for the first time after it gained 27 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly election, pushing the DUP into second place.

The result in Northern Ireland today (May 7) means Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill will be entitled to become first minister, an unprecedented move for a nationalist. The vote “ushers in a new era,” she said.

Earlier, Ms O’Neill described the results as a “defining moment for our politics and for our people.” “Today ushers in a new era which I believe presents us all with an opportunity to reimagine relationships in this society on the basis of fairness, on the basis of equality and on the basis of social justice,” she continued.

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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon congratulated Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald and the party’s vice president Michelle O’Neill. She tweeted: “Many congratulations to @moneillsf and @MaryLouMcDonald on a truly historic result for Sinn Fein.

“I wish Michelle and her colleagues – and all Northern Ireland’s elected representatives – the very best for what comes next and hope to see the NI government functioning again soon.”

As Sinn Fein became the largest party in Stormont for the first time, shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle said his party could act as an “honest broker.”

He said: “Congratulations to all the new assembly members and to Sinn Fein for earning the right to nominate a new prime minister, it is healthy for Northern Ireland that parties from either community can nominate a first minister and shows the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement working.

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“Unionism will still have a strong voice within powersharing and calls for progress on the remaining issues of the protocol have been heard and should not prevent a return to the executive. The Government must now prioritize practical solutions through negotiation with the EU and not chase headlines with empty threats.

“The Labor party will always be an honest broker for Northern Ireland, and we stand ready to help Stormont deliver on the promise of these elections and get an executive up and running to help people with the cost-of-living crisis we are facing across the United Kingdom.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: “I encourage the parties to form an executive as soon as possible. The people of Northern Ireland deserve a stable and accountable local government that delivers on the issues that matter most to them.

“The electorate delivered a number of messages on Thursday. They were clear that they want a fully functioning returned government in Northern Ireland, they want the issues around the protocol addressed, and that they want politics to work better.

“Over the coming days I will be meeting with all the party leaders and will urge them to restore the Stormont institutions at the earliest possible moment, starting with the nomination of an Assembly Speaker within eight days.

“The Government remains committed to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and will continue to work with the Northern Ireland parties and the Irish Government to deliver its vision for reconciliation, equality, respect for rights and parity of esteem. Together, we must move forward towards a brighter future – that means delivering for all the people of Northern Ireland.”

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The Alliance Party has also enjoyed a successful election and will emerge as the third biggest party at Stormont, while the UUP and SDLP have had disappointing results.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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