Blog: Boris MUST face down EU on last piece of Brexit or N.Ireland will suffer – ARLENE FOSTER – Express

In Northern Ireland we had some high-profile casualties such as former Stormont ministers Nicola Mallon of the SDLP and the DUP’s Mervyn Storey, whilst new faces like Diane Forsythe of the DUP and a range of new Alliance members have stepped into the fray. There was huge interest in this election – it was described as the most important in a generation and as predicted for the first time Sinn Fein has become the largest party with 27 out of the 90 seats. It is not the first time that they had more votes than the DUP, the largest unionist party – that was in 2010 but a quirk of the STV system of voting gave the DUP more seats on that occasion.

So what does this mean then for Northern Ireland?

Well firstly we will hear Sinn Fein calling for a border poll – no change there you may think. They are as consistent as Nicola Sturgeon in that regard and it was notable that the Scottish First Minister was quick to congratulate her fellow travellers on their success.

But does this result bring the likelihood of such a poll closer? – no because if you look at the percentage of voters voting for pro-nationalist parties in NI it really has not increased since the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998. In 1998 pro nationalist parties had 39 percent of the vote, in 2022 they have 39.6 percent of the vote. Not exactly progress!

Unfortunately, many in the press have missed this very important point. They have been so blown away by the Sinn Fein win – and it was a big win for them – they have forgotten to look at the other nationalist parties.

The SDLP had a very bad election and slumped to 9.1 percent. So yes, Sinn Fein a party which is still an apologist for IRA violence across the UK, has become the largest party but that is only part of the story and does not provide the necessary evidence for the calling of a border poll by the Secretary of State for NI.

Secondly this election had a split Unionist vote. The DUP was predicted to fall to 18 percent in the end they fell to 21.3 percent and managed to retain most of their seats after a pretty difficult year internally.

The Ulster Unionist party vote fell again to just over 11 percent but one of the stories of the election was that the Traditional Unionist voice party managed to gain over 65,000 votes but get only one member, its leader Jim Allister returned – quite incredible.

This shows the strength of feeling from unionists about the Protocol as Jim Allister for ballot paper purposes changed the named of his party to TUV – No Irish Sea Border.

The protocol and its continuing damage to Northern Ireland was a huge issue for unionists and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the DUP, will not form a government with Sinn Fein until the Prime Minister acts to deal with the societal and economic harm which the Protocol is causing to Northern Ireland.

So, it looks like we are set for a period of political instability unless the PM steps up and deals with the issue. The clock is ticking very loud now.

NI has a different form of devolution to Scotland or Wales as we have what is called a mandatory coalition, where the parties who qualify under a formula called the d’hondt mechanism can all be in government and a government cannot be formed unless both the largest unionist party and the largest nationalist party is involved.

That is why Sinn Fein could keep the other parties out of government for three years between 2017 and 2020 as they would not go into the Executive until their demands were dealt with.

Now the DUP will not go into government until the protocol is replaced. It’s what is called a mutual veto.

Thirdly, the Alliance party had an astounding election. They are the sister party of the Liberal Democrats and don’t take a position on the constitution of NI.

For the purpose of NI politics, they are designated as “other” as they are neither unionist or nationalist.

They increased their vote across Northern Ireland and more than doubled their representation to 17 seats.

They are vehemently pro-European like their sister party and their one MP, Stephen Farry has shown his credentials on this by his various attacks on UK government ministers whilst slavishly praising Europe.

The Alliance party will want to change the Belfast Agreement to move away from the designation process in NI, because as things stand even if they were the largest party, they could not take the First Minister position. I have no doubt that will come up in the inevitable talks after the election.

So, there we have it. A mixed bag for the NI elections. Sinn Fein the largest party, although Unionism is still the largest political designation, but the Alliance party success will throw a whole new discussion into the equation. Watch this space!!

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