Sinn Fein calls for debate on United Ireland after historic election win

Belfort: Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the IRA, hailed its first election victory in Northern Ireland’s history as a “watershed moment” for the British-held region and called for a debate on the creation of a united Ireland.

Sinn Fein won 29% of first preference votes for the regional parliament, far ahead of the pro-British Democratic Unionist party’s 21.3%, according to official results. Although the final seat count was not declared, analysts said no one could catch Sinn Fein.

“Today represents a very important moment of change. This is a watershed moment in our politics and for our people,” said Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, after winning re-election.

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill speaks after the election victory.Credit:

She said there should now be an “honest debate” around the party’s goal of unifying the territory with the Republic of Ireland.

Sinn Fein’s victory will not change the region’s status, as the referendum required to leave the UK is at the discretion of the UK government and likely to be years away.

But the symbolic significance is huge, ending a century of rule by pro-British parties, backed mostly by the region’s Protestant population.

When asked by a reporter if she expected to become the region’s first Irish nationalist prime minister, O’Neill replied: “The people have spoken.

While the largest party has the right to nominate a candidate for prime minister of the region’s mandatory power-sharing government, disagreements with the DUP mean such a nomination could take months.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said he will not join government unless the protocol governing Northern Ireland’s trade with the rest of the UK after it leaves the European Union is fully revised.

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