Northern Ireland a historical fossil
As the second day of counting starts over a third of the 90 Northern Ireland Assembly seats have already been decided, with 47 candidates elected. Sinn Fein who took over 250,000 first preference votes are leading the pack and look certain to become the biggest party at Stormont. Seismic changes of a historic nature are about to take place as Sinn Fein surges in the Titanic counting centre.
At the close of counting on Friday night, they already had 18 MLA’s confirmed. The DUP, were struggling behind them for the first time with 12 of their candidates elected to the new Assembly. Both of the party leaders, Michelle O’Neill and Jeffrey Donaldson were elected on Friday.
The Changing Landscape
The DUP are showing some losses while Alliance are poised for considerable gains. The SDLP, the UUP appear to have done poorly while the Green’s are struggling for survival. Naomi Long the Alliance Party leader also retained her East Belfast seat, with her party doing well having eight elected members by close of Fridays count. The UUP leader Doug Beattie is struggling to retain his seat in Upper Bann, where he will require a considerable amount of transfers to get across the line and retain his seat. His party has had four candidates elected. The DUP’s Peter Weir, the former Education Minister has lost his seat in the North Down constituency. So far the SDLP have had just three candidates elected. Both the SDLP and the UUP appear to have lost considerable ground in this election. The Green Party faces disaster having lost its party leader Clare Bailey’s South Belfast seat and also having lost Rachel Woods North Down seat. The former DUP MLA for North Down Alex Easton retained his seat as an independent candidate.
History in the Making
As the count centres open today Saturday counting continues and transfers are calculated, there will be some interesting developments. History is in the making with Unionism losing their firm control of Northern Ireland for the first time in its 100 years of existence. Northern Ireland was created in such a way that it would have a permanent Unionist majority ruling it forever. That’s all about to change today.
The Emerging Picture
Former Infrastructure Minister the SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon faces a struggle to hold onto her North Belfast seat, with Alliance’s Nuala McAllister poised to take it. SDLP’s Cara Hunter in East Londonderry will lose her seat to Sinn Fein who are poised to gain a second seat in the constituency at her expense. With the majority of MLA’s yet to be elected, a picture is emerging of how the Assembly might look and today Saturday should clarify the look of the next N.I. Assembly.
The next few months that could roll into years will be agonising for Unionism as they refuse to let go and do the unimaginable and nominate a Deputy First Minister to a Sinn Fein First Minister. They will use every excuse in the book and create a few more to prevent a Sinn Fein First Minister from taking what they consider to be theirs by divine right. The prospect of a Sinn Fein First Minister raises for Unionists the unthinkable spectre of Northern Ireland being subsumed into a United Ireland. That might not be such a pleasant place for them or for the rest of us under a Sinn Fein administration in Dublin.