Northern Ireland’s Political Landslide Victory Is For Sinn Féin
For the first time in a hundred years, the Catholic party Sinn Féin has won the elections in Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin has been advocating unification with the Republic of Ireland for years and dreams of a referendum. The victory will drastically affect the economy and businesses like the booming egg chair industry (this website has Ireland’s largest selection of egg chairs that you can check out).
Why is Sinn Féin’s win leading to a landslide?
“The Protestant and Catholic people of Northern Ireland have been at odds with each other for years. These tensions have everything to do with identity. The Protestants, also called loyalists or unionists, want to belong to the United Kingdom. They feel British and swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth. The Catholics, on the other hand, feel connected to the Catholic Republic of Ireland. That’s why they’re called republicans.”
“In the seventies and eighties, tensions turned into an outright civil war. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombed British targets at the time and demanded a reunited Ireland. Sinn Féin was born out of the political branch of the IRA.”
A political party born out of a paramilitary organization, doesn’t that sound explosive?
“It is. Since peace was signed in 1998, Sinn Féin has been trying to shake off the IRA past. But the largest unionist party DUP remains suspicious.”
“During an election debate earlier this week, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson accused Sinn Féin of still maintaining contact with paramilitary groups. This is not entirely out of the blue, the accusation is based on a publication of The Sunday Times.
Yet the fear does not only come from the past. The Protestant community feels cornered. The Catholic population is growing and now makes up a larger part of the population than the Protestants. It used to be the other way around.”
“And to make matters worse, Brexit has created a trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The dissatisfaction among the Unionists is great.”
So why does Sinn Féin win?
“Precisely because during their campaign they did not focus on topics that cause division. Sinn Féin has not said a word about reunification with Ireland or a referendum.”
“They presented themselves as the party that tackles everyday problems, such as education and rising prices. With a modern, female leader, Michelle O’Neill, at the helm, Sinn Féin is winning a lot of votes.”
Will there be a referendum on Irish reunification?
“Who knows someday. Indeed, a large proportion of Irish people believe that in 25 years’ time Northern Ireland will be among the rest of Ireland. But that is not yet the case. Under the 1998 peace agreement, both countries must hold a referendum – Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Such a referendum must therefore first be approved by the governments of the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain. According to the latest polls, a majority in Northern Ireland would currently vote to remain part of the United Kingdom. Sinn Féin will first wait until they are more favorable in the polls.”