O'Neill hails Sinn Fein election results as 'new era'
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Last Thursday’s election marks a milestone for politics in Belfast, as Sinn Fein became the first nationalist party to secure a majority of seats in Stormont on May 5. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) won 25 seats, two less than Sinn Fein, resulting in them relinquishing their power in Government. Since their win, there have been talks of Irish reunification as some are alluding to the 1916 Easter Risings – the Dublin republican insurrection against the British government in Ireland. As a result of becoming Northern Ireland’s largest party, Sinn Fein are entitled to the position of First Minister, with leader Michelle O’Neill expected to fill the role. But unless DUP choose to nominate Ms O’Neill for the position of Deputy First Minister, she will not become the First Minister.
Northern Ireland’s executive of ministers is headed up by the two roles, which have joint responsibility and authority as part of the 1998 Northern Ireland Act.
Following the win, Ms O’Neill pressed the case for a united Ireland on Saturday, just minutes after it was confirmed her party had won the most seats in the Assembly.
But the party have been savaged for their plee for a united Ireland, with some arguing they would be handing over their sovereignty to the EU.
Political editor Brendan O’Neill, wrote on Spiked: “The Northern Ireland Protocol has transformed the status of Northern Ireland. The DUP initially supported the Protocol, and then U-turned. Many Unionists understandably view the Protocol as a political device that weakens the Union and keeps a part of this supposedly sovereign kingdom – their part – beholden to the rules and regulations of the EU.
“Sinn Fein is not the party of national independence, it’s the party of Empire. Sinn Fein is now pro-Eum a stunning turnaround from its nationalistic Eurioscepticism of the 1970s, when one of its leaders said he was perplexed by the idea that Ireland should surrender its sovereignty to an even bigger entity than Britain.”
The Sinn Fein win is likely to mean a different dynamic for Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU. The existing protocol has changed the status of Northern Ireland, with the UK trying to amend parts to offer easier trade access.
But Sinn Fein does not support any changes to the current legislation, with Ms O’Neill expected to fight this stance.
Boris Johnson previously benefited from the DUP’s stance on changing the protocol, so is now expected to struggle with negotiations. The party harbours long term ambitions to unite Ireland, with her statement already causing a stir on social media as people talk of the chance of a unification.
With fears of a divided UK, former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib has warned the elections are “very likely” to mark the “final chapter” for the United Kingdom.
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He told Express.co.uk: “The result is seismic, it is very likely the last chapter in the end of the United Kingdom. Boris Johnson is to blame. Why? He has failed at every step to stand up for British citizens in Northern Ireland.
“It is his Protocol (aided and abetted by Lord Frost and Michael Gove) that put a border down the Irish Sea and left Northern Ireland to the mercy of foreign laws and a foreign court – all things he swore he would not do.
“On 12 September 2020 he wrote in the Telegraph that the Protocol presented a threat to the very fabric of the United Kingdom but then did nothing. He has repeatedly said he would not hesitate to invoke Article 16 to suspend the Protocol and has done nothing. Even after two British courts ruled that the Protocol breached the Act of Union, he did nothing.”
Mr Habib also claimed Mr Johnson had “shunned unionists” in Northern Ireland, saying: “They have been left alone on the battlefield to fight for the integrity of our United Kingdom. That should be our government’s job.”
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