Irish nationalist parties have made gains in this week’s snap Stormont elections, final results show. With the last result under the Single Transferable Vote system coming in at 03:08 this morning, the next Northern Ireland Assembly is as follows:
These results mean that the Democratic Unionist Party, a right-wing unionist party in the region, have lost their ability to force through a ‘Petition of Concern’, which is a legislative device used in the Northern Ireland Assembly to veto a bill. The instrument must be brought forward by 30 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), and is intended to block legislation that would favour one community over another (i.e. Nationalist over Unionist or vice versa).
This is not, however, it has always been how it is used. During the last Assembly, Arlene Foster, Leader of the DUP and First Minister of Northern Ireland, used a petition of concern to kill marriage equality in the region, claiming that religious reasons caused her to deny equal rights to gay couples. Interestingly, the mainly Protestant DUP have issues with gay marriage, whilst the mainly Catholic Sinn Féin do not – which is seemingly opposite to how the denominations at-large function in the world.
Large gains were made in the region by Sinn Féin, who lost one seat. Though this sounds like a disappointment, one must consider the fact that Stormont has shrank – it was reduced from 108 MLAs to 90 MLAs. Whereas previously, the party held 25.9% of the seats available, it now possesses 30%. The DUP, however, went from a handsome 35.2% of the seats in 2016 to just 31.1%, losing a whopping 10 seats.
Michelle O’Neill (pictured above), Stormont Leader of Sinn Féin said:
“If people are serious about making the institutions work; if people are genuine about power-sharing; about equality and respect then whilst we have a difficult period ahead in the next few weeks, there is nothing that is unachievable if you have the right attitude.
“We are prepared to do business with anybody. That has always been the approach of Sinn Féin. We will talk with anyone and discuss and negotiate.”
Additional gains were made by the Alliance Party, which informally take the Liberal Democrat whip in Parliament, and function as a sister party to the former coalition partners, as well as by the Green Party and the People Before Profit Alliance, an anti-austerity Marxist party.
The election was called after Arlene Foster was embroiled in a scandal that could cost Northern Ireland a whopping £480 million – this princely sum could fund the Northern Ireland Office for a massive 21 years. To read more about the scandal, click here.