Dublin, London and Washington call on the DUP to form the regional Executive, giving up their battle against the ‘Brexit’ Protocol
“Regardless of religious, political or social culture, my commitment is that politics work,” said the leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, after the confirmation on Saturday night of the historic victory of her party in the elections last Thursday. She also stated that this victory “marks the beginning of a new era, to reimagine our society.”
The final count, which ended at dawn, gave Sinn Féin a two-seat lead, 27-25, over the second most voted party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The moderate parties of nationalism (SDLP) and unionism (UUP) have lost ground and the Alliance, a liberal and agnostic party on the traditional division of the province has grown more than any other.
The sums on the great ambitions of the winning parties weaken them. The pro-British deputies (DUP, UUP, TUV and two independents) have 37 seats and the supporters of the Irish union (SF and SDLP), 35. They also win in total number of votes. On the ‘Brexit’ Protocol, which the unionists want to change radically, there is a loose majority, 52-37, of those who want to preserve it with reforms (SF, SDLP and Alianza).
The British minister for Northern Ireland, the Irish prime minister and the State Department in Washington called on the parties on Sunday to quickly form a shared Executive. They were not ritual gestures but pressure on the DUP so that it does not fulfill its threat of not proposing its representative for the shared leadership of autonomy, if it does not radically change the Protocol agreed by London and Brussels in the ‘Brexit’.
Jonathan Buckley, elected as a DUP regional deputy, responded to the BBC in Northern Ireland on Minister Brandon Lewis’s request: “You can have shared autonomy or the Protocol, but you can’t have both.” Lewis will speak this Monday with all the parties that have won seats to start a dialogue that promises to be unsuccessful.
The DUP has lost three seats and almost 7% of the vote. They mostly went to Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV), intransigent about the Protocol. If the Johnson government does not save him by triggering a confrontation with Brussels, he could opt for boycott and protest, typical of Ian Paisley, founder of the party. Would it lead to the collapse of the Good Friday Agreement? The alternative is to negotiate less than it has demanded and perhaps aggravate the split within unionism, which gives Sinn Féin victories.
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