Sinn Féin, with its nationalist and Irish Catholic supporters, won at least 27 of the 90 seats in parliament. The rival Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of pro-British Protestants lost and has 24 MPs. The last time, the gap between the two parties was one seat, in favor of the DUP (27 against 28). The Centre-Liberal Alliance won big, rising from eight to at least 17 seats. Two have not yet been awarded.
Leader of the winning party, Michelle O’Neill, spoke of a defining moment in history and the harbinger of a new era. “Today symbolizes fundamental change,” the politician responded to the report that her Sinn Féin, as expected on Friday, had become the largest faction in the Northern Ireland parliament.
According to O’Neill, there must now be an “honest debate” over the party’s goal of unification with the Republic of Ireland. The electoral victory does not change the status of Northern Ireland for the moment. To leave the United Kingdom, a referendum is necessary and the British government decides. It could take years.
Sinn Féin is the former political wing of the IRA, a movement that fought hard to join Ireland. The current party leader has previously said he wants to focus on the rising cost of living and health care.
Sinn Féin wants a referendum on the reunification of Northern Ireland with Ireland, but does not want it immediately. Northern Ireland emerged a century ago as a Protestant split from a predominantly Catholic Ireland.
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