Ellen Magee examines the historic outcome.
On Thursday 2nd March 2017, a significant national election occurred which could have major consequences for the United Kingdom. And yet, the British media omitted any details of such a thing, in order to make room for important news such as Bruce Forsyth having a chest infection (BBC) or Snapchat going public (The Guardian).
The Northern Ireland Assembly election was the result of corruption, incompetence, and scandal. After Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned, causing the power-sharing coalition to collapse, the electorate were sent to the polls for the second time in just 10 months. McGuinness’ resignation was in response to First Minister Arlene Foster’s arrogant refusal to step down for a public inquiry following her oversight of a failed Renewable Heat Incentive scheme costing the tax payer approximately £500m.
The result of the election will have major implications both for Northern Ireland and for the UK. Most importantly, the conservative religious DUP have lost the 30 seats needed to rely on the petition of concern: a mechanism in NI introduced to protect minorities, the democratic tool which the DUP has abused repeatedly to block same-sex marriage legislation in the North: the only place on the British Isles which legally discriminates against LGBT+ community in this way. The result also carries a historical significance as it is now the first time ever that Northern Irish government is not dominated by unionism, which means the Assembly may now be the home to actual power-sharing government – not just an executive of bullying ‘the other side’ and vetoing liberal legislation such as marriage equality and abortion (both strictly banned in NI).
Furthermore, the Republican party Sinn Féin now have only 1 less seat than DUP and scored meaningful gains in the election. This introduces the possibility of a border poll in Ireland; an ideal which is outlined in The Good Friday Agreement as an issue of consent. The people of Northern Ireland (alike to Scotland) voted to remain in EU and yet that consent was violated when, thanks to English nationalism, the Brexit result came through. Feeling removed from Westminster, the people of Northern Ireland and Scotland now have a choice to make: to reclaim their right to make their own decisions and not be overlooked by the decisions of England, or to continue to be treated like a footnote to Britain.
[Ellen Magee – @mondaymagee]