Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster (L) stands with Party Chairman Maurice Morrow, Baron Morrow (R), who lost his seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections, at the count center in Omagh, Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland, on March 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has narrowly won the Northern Ireland’s snap election, which had been called because of the collapse of the power-sharing agreement in the devolved Assembly.
Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Party, made major gains over the rival bloc, coming only one seat short of DUP’s 28 seats.
Despite emerging victorious, DUP now holds 10 seats fewer than it previously did and for the first time, unionists do not have an overall majority at Stormont.
The outcome is seen as a humiliation for Northern Ireland’s largest political faction and for the party’s embattled leader, Arlene Foster.
“The notion of a perpetual unionist majority has been demolished,” Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said.
Sinn Féin had refused to replace Martin McGuinness as leader of nationalists and deputy first minister, while Foster had rejected calls to resign amid an investigation into the government’s handling of a botched renewable energy scheme.
Subsequently, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire announced that a snap election would take place.
The two blocs now have three weeks to establish a government run by both nationalists and unionists. If they fail to do so within that time frame, another election will be called.
“Let us move forward with hope that a functioning assembly can be restored and hope that a Northern Ireland with so many overlapping cultural identities can be home to all of us,” Foster said on Friday.
Negotiations will start in Belfast on Monday.
Ultimately, if no power-sharing government is formed, the UK
Parliament at Westminster could end up assuming direct rule.
“Everyone now has a shared responsibility to engage intensively in the short period of time that is available to us, to ensure that a strong and stable administration is established,” Secretary of State James Brokenshire said.