Northern Ireland votes amid power sharing crisis

Posted March 07, 2017

"It was a foregone conclusion that nationalists would turn out to vote in the election", says Andrew Rock, a retired 64-year-old and rare Sinn Fein supporter in this part of Northern Ireland as he walked through the Lisburn mall with his granddaughter.

Writing in yesterday's Sunday Life, Mrs Foster said she was determined to remain as party chief and lead the DUP into talks with Sinn Fein.

In last week's elections, Sinn Fein came within one parliamentary seat of the Democratic Unionist Party in Stormont.

Sinn Féin is so far insisting DUP leader Arlene Foster can't be involved until the Cash-for-Ash controversy is resolved.

Forty miles away, Sinn Fein's northern leader Michelle O'Neill filled out her ballot paper in St Patrick's primary school in her home village of Clonoe, Co Tyrone. The Democratic Unionists finished with 28 seats, Sinn Fein 27.

The U.K. may have to reimpose direct rule on the region if the two biggest parties can not agree to enter government together again.

The election is to fill 90 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, after a previous decision to reduce the number of lawmakers from 108 in a cost-cutting measure.

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However, Sinn Féin continues to call for Arlene Foster's resignation as DUP party leader while a full investigation of the heating scandal is carried out; if no government is formed Northern Ireland could return to what is called "direct rule" from London.

The vote was called to resolve a political stalemate between historical rivals DUP and Sinn Fein, who will now have to begin negotiations to govern together under a power-sharing agreement struck to bring an end to civil strife in the British-ruled province. "It was a vote against Brexit and for the North to have a designated special status within the European Union".

The result, which also handed fewer seats to a smattering of other parties, leaves unionists without a firm majority - and thus without veto power - for the first time since Ireland was partitioned in 1921, according to Reuters.

For the first time since Ireland was partitioned nearly a century ago, pro-British unionists no longer hold a majority in Northern Ireland's local assembly.

"I think it would be a pity if they were launched back into yet another election just after three weeks".

An online exit poll by Lucid Talk found that turnout appeared to be 2-3 percent higher among nationalist voters compared to an election year ago while turnout for unionist voters was unchanged. While the DUP have rejected this outright, a poor result might force her to step down.

The whole point of power-sharing - the central goal of Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord - is to promote compromise between two evenly balanced blocs.