Northern Ireland parties vow to work together after Sinn Fein win

The UK, US and Irish governments have called on rival parties in Northern Ireland to unite to resurrect their power-sharing government after the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party won a historic victory to become the biggest party in the Assembly. from Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein, which seeks union with Ireland, won 27 seats in the 90-seat legislature, beating the Democratic Unionist Party, which secured 25 seats. It is the first time in Northern Ireland’s history that an Irish nationalist party has led the vote.

But it is unclear whether Sinn Fein will lead a new government because of Northern Ireland’s delicate power-sharing policy and ongoing disputes over the legacy of Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Although Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill is now entitled to the post of prime minister, a functioning Northern Ireland executive – or decentralized government – cannot be formed unless the largest union party agrees. in joining the post of Deputy Prime Minister.

Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill votes in Northern Ireland Assembly elections
A Sinn Fein election official is seen carrying party flags near a polling station on May 5, 2022 in Belfast, UK. Today’s election will elect 90 members to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Charles McQuillan / Getty Images

In February, Paul Givan of the DUP resigned as prime minister in protest against theBrexit border arrangements, collapsing the Executive. His party has said it will not return to government unless its demands on customs agreements are met.

Leaders in London and Dublin said all parties must now reinstate Northern Ireland’s government as quickly as possible.

Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said on Saturday that “it is now up to all political parties and elected representatives to fulfill their mandate”.

“Power sharing and the principles of partnership, equality and mutual respect are at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement, through which peace has been secured and progress achieved for nearly 25 years,” he added. “A new power-sharing Executive is vital to the progress and prosperity of all in Northern Ireland.”

In London, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said he would meet with party leaders on Monday to discuss how to restore a functioning government.

Lewis reiterated his position that the UK government would like to reach an agreement with the EU to resolve disputes over post-Brexit rules known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The DUP is strongly opposed to the rules, which imposed customs and border controls on some goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. identity.

Britain’s Conservative government is trying to get the EU to agree to major changes, but the talks have reached an impasse.

“The UK government’s position is that we want to secure a deal with the EU. We are very clear on that,” Lewis told the BBC on Sunday. “We’ve been working hard on this for over a year in a series of talks. We made proposals. The EU has not shown flexibility.”

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the post-Brexit problems were an “obstacle to stability” in Northern Ireland and the London government would take “all necessary steps” to try to resolve it.

“It’s clear from the dynamics we see now that we’re not going to get to this position of stability unless and until it’s fixed,” Raab said.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price also called on Northern Ireland’s political leaders to take the necessary steps to restore a functioning government.

The legacy of Brexit adds an extra challenge to the politics of Northern Ireland, which operates under a delicate system that divides power between the biggest British unionist party and the biggest Irish nationalist party. The system was created by the 1998 Good Friday peace accord that ended decades of Catholic-Protestant conflict.

If no power-sharing Executive can be formed within six months, a new election could be triggered.

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