Thu, 26 May 2022

BELFAST, Northern Ireland: Sinn Fein, once considered the political wing of the terrorist Irish Republican Army, emerged as the largest party in Northern Ireland's regional elections, as the country is on the verge of having a nationalist leader for the first time in its history.

Sinn Fein secured the highest share of first preference votes, overtaking the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in voting for the province's 90-member National Assembly, winning the most seats, 27, compared with 25 seats for the DUP and 17 for the Alliance Party.

According to the UK's PA media news agency, the counting of votes finished early on May 8.

Sinn Fein, which is opposed to Northern Ireland being part of the UK and is in favor of a united Ireland, is now the largest party in the assembly and can nominate a prime minister for the first time.

In the evening of May 6 as the results were being released, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald told CNN, "The preparation for constitutional change in Ireland needs to begin now. We need to be alive to the fact that change is underway. It is my absolute determination that that change will be entirely peaceful."

According to a clause in the 1998 peace accords signed with the British and Irish governments after decades of conflict, a referendum on Irish unification could be held if it appears likely that the majority of voters would back it.

Sinn Fein's emergence as Northern Ireland's largest party could force a conversation on this poll.

The Party's success in the election was aided by a decrease in popularity for the DUP, which has held the post of prime minister since 2007, and briefly propped up Theresa May's Conservative government in Westminster starting in 2017.

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