The Northern Irish impasse has been resolved, paving the way for a new government led by Michelle O’Neill of the Sinn Féin party. With her party receiving the most votes in the May 2022 election, but failing to form a government, O’Neill now has the opportunity to lead Northern Ireland towards a brighter future.
The new legislation establishes that the Northern Ireland Executive must be made up of members from nationalist and unionist parties, which defend the country’s permanence in the United Kingdom. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) received the second-most votes in the 2022 election, but refused to form a government and boycotted the National Assembly for two years due to post-Brexit trade rules.
Finally, an agreement was reached which includes a transfer of £3 billion ($4.5 billion) from the British government to public services in Northern Ireland. With O’Neill heading up this new government, it marks a significant moment in Northern Irish history – for the first time since Ireland was partitioned in 1921, a nationalist holds the top position in the Northern Irish Executive.
O’Neill is determined to bring about change and reunify Ireland peacefully without resorting to violence. “There are so many things that are changing,” she said during an interview with Sky News. “All old norms, nature of this state – even that a nationalist republican should never be prime minister.” Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald echoed this sentiment when she announced that they would hold a referendum on island reunification within ten years at an international press conference last week.
However, both sides have expressed concerns about holding such a referendum. The British Prime Minister emphasized that it is not about promoting constitutional change but rather implementing day-to-day things that are important to people. Unionist allies also argued that people want their government focused on resolving daily issues rather than being distracted by constitutional matters.
As O’Neill begins her term as head of government in Northern Ireland, there is hope for a brighter future and an end to division on this island nation once and for all.