KERIKFERGES, Northern Ireland – The sun was setting on clean red brick houses in a Protestant neighborhood outside Belfast when two Northern Ireland legislature candidates knocked on the door this evening. It may also be living up to the pro-resident unionist dreams.
“Times have changed,” said Brian Goe, 69, as he considered the possibility that the Irish nationalist party, Sunfen, would win the most seats in Thursday’s parliamentary election.
It will represent an extraordinary future for a political party that many outside of Ireland still associate with years of paramilitary violence. It will also be a major change in Northern Ireland, which could maintain power-sharing arrangements that have maintained a fragile peace for two decades.
Yet for all the fretted symbols, Mr. Go and his wife, Allison, welcomed the possibility of Sun Fan’s victory with relative equality.
“There’s no way I’m going to vote for Sun Fan,” said Mrs Gu, 66, who, like her husband, is a staunch supporter of the Democratic Unionist Party, which supports Northern Ireland’s current status as part of Britain. she does. “But if they are committed to serving everyone equally, people will have to live with it.”
It will be music in the ears of Sun Fan leaders. In last week’s polls, they took a two to six percentage point lead over the DUP, running a campaign that emphasizes kitchen table concerns such as the high cost of living and the need for better health care – and that Influences party ideology. Commitment to the Irish Alliance, the legacy of its relationship with the Irish Republican Army.
Party leaders say the Irish alliance is an issue of extreme horizons, over which Sunfan has limited control. It is up to the British government to decide whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom or join the Republic of Ireland.
The only immediate effect of Sinn Fein’s victory would be the right to name the first minister in the next government. According to political analysts, the Unionists, who are divided into three parties, could still end up with the largest bloc of votes.
“I hope that the political coalition, when it meets this democratic test next week, will accept the people’s vote, whatever it is,” said John Finoquin, a member of the British Parliament’s Sun Fann party. Running campaigns. “After the election, it’s potentially dangerous to paint it in the United States vs. their context.”
Mr Finokin, a lawyer and rugby player, 42, knows the horrors of Northern Ireland’s past. When he was 8 years old, he watched from under a table when masked gunmen killed his father, Pete Funkin, a prominent Catholic lawyer. The assassination, in which loyal paramilitary forces allied with British security forces, was the most notorious in 30 years of violence known as the Troubles.
Pat Finucane’s picture still hangs on his son’s desk – a passionate reminder of why Sinn Fein’s victory means more than better health care. In the United States, where many in the Irish diaspora pursue a nationalist cause, party supporters are more at stake.
Prior to St. Patrick’s Day, he ran advertisements in the New York Times and other newspapers promising “Irish unity in our time” and urging the Irish government to “plan, prepare and advocate for Irish unity.” Friday’s agreement, “the 1998 peace agreement that ended sectarian violence in the north.”
Democratic Unionist Gordon Lyons, who represents Carrick Fergus, said “if the Sun Fans are the largest party, the focus will immediately be on their calls for a border vote.” “What people want to avoid is division, arguments and hostility that will come from it.”
But it is the Democratic Unionists who are laying the groundwork for hatred. He has warned that he will not run for office with Sun Fan’s first minister. The party fired its first minister. The North has been embroiled in a trade dispute since the Brexit in February, which is governed by the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol.
Unionists complain that the protocol, which requires border checks on goods going from the mainland UK to Northern Ireland, has created a rift between the north and the rest of the UK. He is pressuring Prime Minister Boris Johnson to restore the order he had negotiated with the European Union.
It seems Mr Johnson is ready to do it. His government is preparing legislation, which could be introduced a few days after the election, which would eliminate parts of the protocol. Critics have warned that this could lead to a confrontation with Brussels and jeopardize the hard-won peace of the Good Friday Agreement.
But opinion polls show that the protocol is not a high priority for most voters in Northern Ireland, even many unions. Some economists say the North’s hybrid trade status is an advantage, giving it dual access to mainland UK and EU markets.
Recently, the issue did not come up much during the election campaign of the two candidates of the Alliance Party, which presents itself as an alternative between Sun Fan and DUP. Let’s see, not the bread and butter issues that affect people’s daily lives, “said Danny Donnelly, one of them.
Opponents say the DUP is exploiting the protocol – despite its insensitively complex details – especially in loyalist strongholds, where posters warn residents that “Irish will never accept the border at sea!” “
“There is no way you can tell me that a child with a petrol bomb in his hand is saddened by the subtleties of the international trade agreement between the European Union and the British government,” Mr Finokin said last year. Mentioning the fierce clashes, he said. Young demonstrators and police in Belphast.
Yet, even if the protocol has little effect on everyday life, it carries symbolic weight for those who have missed cast from the UK since Brexit. Although the Protestants remain a bare majority of the population in the North, the Catholic population is growing rapidly and is ready to overtake them.
While the connection between religion and national identity is not automatic – some Catholics in Northern Ireland consider themselves British, not Irish – it has added to the unionist belief that the North and the South will inevitably come closer together. And that they will have connections to London. Inevitably quarrel.
“We are still part of the UK,” Mr Go said, “but we are not being treated that way.”
For this, he blames DUP instead of Sun Fan. The party signed the agreement that Mr Johnson made with Brussels and now wants to open it. He then ousted the government, which he saw as a political stunt that betrayed its 50-year history as a responsible voice for unionists in Belfast and London.
The divisions within the party, which are also being challenged by the right-wing party, the traditionalist Unionist Voice, are so deep that some say the entire unionist movement may need to be reorganized.
“There is a tendency in unionism to think that maybe everything needs to be destroyed and burned before we can have a proper new unionist movement that unites all,” said David Campbell, chairman of the Loyal Communities Council. Which represents a group of supporters. Union paramilitary group
Mr Lyons pointed out that the DUP had succeeded in persuading the British government to overhaul the protocol. He predicted that the Unionist voters – even those who were disappointed with Briggs – would return rather than risk Sun Fan taking over the responsibility of the largest party.
Whatever the outcome, history revolves around Belfast. Kevin Mellon, 40, a shopkeeper on the tumultuous Falls Road in the Catholic stronghold, said nationalists are more interested in economic prosperity than in uniting with the South, even though the idea still has autistic appeal.
Thomas Knox, 52, a Catholic home painter and decorator, raised a pint in the Royal British Legion, a bar in the nearby town of Larne, where British police and soldiers often visited. A decade ago, he said, he didn’t feel comfortable walking around.
“Those days are long gone,” said Mr Knox.