Tag Archives: Michelle O’Neill

Polling closed in Northern Ireland Assembly elections

UPDATES:

  • The election is set to deliver a significant boost to Irish nationalism at the expense of unionists, RTE reports. Sinn Féin could come within a seat or two of the DUP, which held a 10 seat advantage in the previous Stormont government.
  • The nearly 65 percent turnout was higher than first anticipated and the strongest since the vote that followed the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
  • Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt announced his resignation.

ORIGINAL POST:

Polling stations have closed across the six counties of Northern Ireland, and counting will take place throughout the day 3 March. Results should be completed by the following day.

The Electoral Office for Northern Ireland has told media outlets that the turnout was higher than last May’s 55 percent participation rate. The BBC reported 80 percent turnout in new Sinn Féin leader Michelle O”Neill’s Mid Ulster constituency, and more than 75 percent in DUP leader Arlene Foster’s district of Fermanagh South Tyrone.

Could these two women share power at Stormont? Or will there be a return to direct rule from London? Check back for updates, and I’ll wrap up the results by 5 March.

BBC photo

Sinn Féin names new leader in Northern Ireland

A 40-year-old mother of two children has replaced an aging and ill former IRA commander as the new face of republican politics in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Assembly health minister Michelle O’Neill has been selected by Sinn Féin to lead the party in the province. The Mid Ulster representative takes over for Martin McGuinness, 66, who resigned earlier this month due to health problems and lingering questions about his unionist counterpart’s role in a troubled energy program.

O’Neill

“I have no doubt that I am following in the footsteps of a political giant,” O’Neill said in a statement.

The McGuinness resignation resulted in the assembly being dissolved and triggers fresh elections 2 March.

“In the aftermath of the election, there can and will be no return to the status quo,” O’Neill said. “Sinn Féin are only interested in participating in the power sharing institutions if they deliver for all of our citizens and operate on the basis of equality and respect.”

O’Neill has held elected office since 2005 and was first woman mayor of the Dungannon council area, according to a detailed bio on the party website. She lives in Clonoe, County Tyrone, about an hour west of Belfast.

The political landscape continues to evolve in Northern Ireland. As The Guardian reported a few days before O’Neill’s selection, demographics are driving a lot of the change. The ratio of Protestants to Catholics is close to even, and more immigrants are living in the province.

“Brexit may also mean an independent Scotland, the Unionists’ most natural ally in the U.K., which would leave Ulster as an even more isolated appendage than ever. And hemmed in to the south [by the Republic.] In such circumstances, the case against a united Ireland might seem absurd.”