Northern Ireland: historic win for Sinn Féin

The republican, pro-unification Sinn Féin party has emerged victorious for the first time in the Northern Ireland Assembly election. However, under the power-sharing system stipulated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement it will have to divide up the top government posts with the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party. The media see the election as a clear vote against old divisions.

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Irish Independent (IE) /

Pragmatism needed

The substantial gains for the centrist Alliance Party, which is designated as neither republican nor unionist, is indicative of the mood in the North, writes the Irish Independent:

“The election told us that people want change, that they want to end efforts to reach the future via over-dwelling upon this island’s dark past, that - above all - they sense the huge potential of this island and its people. ... If the political leaders [of the main parties] are to retain credibility they will have to show both pragmatism and generosity to make things work in the North from this coming week onwards. ... But, more immediately, we need a more encouraging tone to be injected into government-making talks.”

The Sunday Times (GB) /

Avoid provocations

The tense situation in Northern Ireland must not be escalated with inflammatory words and actions, warns The Sunday Times:

“The DUP should not petulantly exacerbate tensions by boycotting the formation of a government at Stormont [seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly]. The current version of the Northern Ireland Protocol [Brexit border settlement] may be untenable, but both main parties in Northern Ireland must work with Westminster and Brussels if they are to find a solution that works in the long term. The EU needs to look realistically at the problems it has created here and Johnson should refrain from unilaterally inflammatory moves such as suspending the protocol on his part.”

El País (ES) /

Sinn Féin benefits from fragmented rival camp

El País also sees the election outcome as a result of the weakness of the pro-British opponents:

“The unionists brought this on themselves. They backed a Brexit that an overwhelming majority of the Northern Irish population rejected. ... Behind the pretext of the [Northern Ireland] protocol [with the EU] is an identity crisis of unionism. ... Sinn Féin, for its part, has managed to relegate its core doctrine, the reunification of Ireland, to second place and strengthen its social message with the focus on concerns about the high cost of living, the housing crisis and the need for political stability. It has gained more support than in the last election, but it owes its first place largely to the division of its historic rivals.”