February 1, 2023

Sinn Fein Is Winning in Northern Ireland

5 min read

Credit …Andrew Testa for the New York Times

LONDON – Northern Ireland was separated from the Irish Republic a century ago to protect the rights of its predominantly Protestant, pro-British population. But on Friday, the largest Irish nationalist party, the Sun Fan, was on the verge of being declared the largest party in the region, a political watershed in a land riddled with long-running sectarian violence.

With a majority of votes in Friday evening’s legislative election, Sun Fann was on track to win the most seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, a distinction that would allow him to be named the first minister in the government.

Elections are less important than a history of hard-fought political concessions: a nationalist party in Northern Ireland will raise new hopes for Irish unity, but it is the seed of a return to unrest between Catholics and Protestants in the region. Can also smell Critical power-sharing arrangements have maintained peace for more than two decades.

This is a remarkable time for a party in which many people are still involved in paramilitary violence.

“For nationalists who have lived in Northern Ireland for decades, seeing Sinn Fein as the biggest party is an emotional moment,” said Diarmaid Ferriter, professor of modern Irish history at University College Dublin. “The idea of ​​leading a government in Northern Ireland was once against it.”

Across the UK, the results of Friday’s local elections were a bit of a shock to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was widely seen as a test of the damage done by him and his Conservative party in a revolving scandal. Was going Parties breaking the lockdown on Downing Street.

But it was in Northern Ireland that the potential for change in results was greatest.

Sunfen’s victory has upset the Unionists, who have refused to say they will run for office with Sunfen’s first minister. This could lead to the dissolution of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, known as Stormont, and a paralysis of government. Some fear that violence between Catholics and Protestants could escalate after the peace deal ended after 30 years of guerrilla warfare, known as Troubles.

Sunfan reaped its electoral benefits with a campaign that focused on kitchen table issues such as the rising cost of living and healthcare, and called for uniting the north and south of Ireland. Totem’s commitment ended – a sign of his relationship with the Irish Republican Army

The change would push the Democratic Unionist Party, which supports the current status of Northern Ireland as part of Britain, to become the second largest party since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, creating a system that Unionists and nationalists share power.

Other possible big winners in the election included the Alliance, a central party that is neither allied with the Nationalists nor with the Unionists. Analysts say the party’s candidates have garnered votes from “soft unionists”, who suggest that past sectarian strife is less resonant, especially with younger voters, such as housing, jobs and health care. From everyday worries.

“A large number of voters in Northern Ireland say they are not nationalists or unionists,” said Katie Hayward, a professor of politics at Queen’s University in Belfast. “Now there seems to be a momentum behind this approach.”

“The overriding point Sun Fan is making is that we want to be in government,” said Professor Hayward. “It is welcomed by those who are fed up with the government’s inaction.”

In the so-called first-priority vote, reported Friday evening, Sunfen received 250,388 votes, the Democratic Unionist Party 184,002, and the Alliance 116,681. Under the region’s complex voting system, the candidate who receives the most votes automatically wins the Assembly seats.

But voters can express additional preferences, and seats are allocated according to the parties’ share of the vote. This means that the final number of seats won by Sunfen and other parties will not be clear until Saturday.

For all intents and purposes, the victory was as much about the chaos in the Unionist movement as it was about the rise of the nationalists. The Unionists have been divided and frustrated since Bridget, largely because the Democratic Unionist Party signed negotiations with the British government for a hybrid trade status for Northern Ireland, known as the Protocol.

Arrangements for border checks on goods bound for Northern Ireland from mainland Britain have provoked a backlash among Unionist voters, many of whom have complained that it has created a rift between them and the rest of Britain. have done. The British government, anxious to woo the Unionists, is considering legislation that would eliminate parts of the trade protocol. But it remains to be seen.

Such a move would increase tensions with the European Union and possibly lead to a trade war. It will also oppose the United States, which has warned Britain not to take steps that could jeopardize the Good Friday Agreement – a deal brokered by the Clinton administration.

President Biden, who often speaks of his Irish roots and strongly opposes Bridget, has raised the profile of Northern Ireland in meetings with Mr Johnson. He also asked his staff to reiterate their concerns to British authorities about the issue.

While unionists point to trade protocol as the source of their problems, analysts say Bridget, who was opposed by a majority of Northern Ireland voters, was at the root of the division within the movement.

“It’s Bridget who is casting a shadow over Northern Ireland,” said Bobby McDonough, the former Irish ambassador to Britain. “It’s not a protocol, it’s just an attempt to solve the problems caused by Bridget.”

An aggressive new push for Irish unity could also be a threat to peace. Sen. Finn has ruled out the possibility, saying it is up to the British government to ask the people of Northern Ireland whether they want to stay in Britain or unite with the Republic of Ireland. Schedule.

The majority of people in the south will also have to vote for the coalition, which experts say could take years. Senfen has also stepped up his support in the Irish Republic, with similar bread and butter issues appealing to voters on house prices. It is now Ireland’s main opposition party and has the opportunity to join the government after the 2025 elections.

“Sun Fan is now in a unique position – it’s an All-Ireland party,” said Professor Ferrero-Waldner. “But if it is to succeed, given that its primary goal is Irish unity, it must step up its efforts.”

For its entire evolution into a mainstream party, analysts say there are still traces of militant roots in Sunfen. It is very central, with very little internal debate or disagreement characteristic of other parties.

In the United States, where many in the Irish Diaspora embrace the nationalist cause, supporters of the party ran advertisements in the New York Times and other newspapers before St. Patrick’s Day, promising “Irish unity in our time.”

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