Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, has called for an “honest debate” on Irish reunification, after her party emerged from elections the largest party in Northern Ireland, a first in the history of the British-ruled territory. However, consensus is required, and may be difficult to obtain.
Sinn Fein secured the most seats in Northern Ireland’s assembly elections over the weekend, emerging with 27 compared to the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) 25. The non-sectarian Alliance Party won 17 seats, while the Ulster Unionist Party took nine, and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), a smaller nationalist party, took eight.
The result is Sinn Fein’s best ever performance in Northern Ireland’s 100-year history, and marks the first time an Irish nationalist party has become the largest in the territory’s assembly.
“Today represents a very significant moment of change. It’s a defining moment in our politics and for our people,” O’Neill said on Sunday. The nationalist leader added that there should now be an “honest debate” on unifying Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland to the south, a core tenet of Sinn Fein’s platform.