Sinn Fein has become the largest party in local government in Northern Ireland for the first time. Following a two-day count, Sinn Fein emerged with 144 seats, an increase of 39 on the last vote in 2019. The DUP was the largest unionist party with 122 seats, the same as four years ago. The Alliance Party increased its representation by 14 seats to 67. Smaller parties and independents took the remaining 36 seats.
Reaction from Sinn Fein, DUP, UUP, and SDLP leaders
Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill described the results as “momentous”. She added: “The onus is now on the British and Irish governments to get together and focus their efforts on the immediate restoration of the executive and assembly.” DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “I think […] there are lessons to be learned for unionism in its broadest sense. The DUP has had a good election but unionism needs to do better, we need to be winning more seats.” UUP leader Doug Beattie said he was disappointed but had no plans to resign. SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Sinn Fein had “cannibalised” the nationalist vote.
The future of Northern Ireland’s assembly and executive
Michelle O’Neill has called for an early meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference. She also said that the boycott of the assembly cannot go on, and an executive must be formed. The results of the election have put pressure on the British and Irish governments to restore the assembly and executive.
The significance of Sinn Fein’s victory and the future of unionism
Sinn Fein’s victory is significant as it highlights the growing support for Irish nationalism in Northern Ireland. The party secured 30.9% of first preference votes, ahead of the DUP on 23.3%, 13.3% for Alliance, 10.9% for the Ulster Unionists and 8.7% for the SDLP. The election results have also highlighted the need for unionism to do better. While the DUP had a good election, unionism needs to be winning more seats. There is a call for greater co-operation among unionists to lead to a pathway towards more success for unionism in general.
Sinn Fein’s victory in Northern Ireland’s council elections is significant and has put pressure on the British and Irish governments to restore the assembly and executive. The election results have also highlighted the need for unionism to do better and to work together towards greater success.