New British PM makes connections with Ireland

UPDATE 4:

New British Prime Minister Keir Starmer has spoken by phone with Irish Taoiseach Simon Harris. They are scheduled to meet in London on July 17. Starmer also spoken with Northern Ireland First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly. He is expected to visit the province within days. … Hilary Benn has been named Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Funding, and either repeal or modification of the Legacy Act, are top issues for the new Labour government in the North.

Leaders from London, Dublin, and Belfast met 100 years ago …

Leaders Ramsay MacDonald of Britain, William Cosgrave of the Irish Free State, and Sir James Craig of Northern Ireland discussed the Irish boundary commission and related matters four years after partition. Ransey was the Labour Party’s first prime minister. Image from the Buffalo (N.Y.) Courier, July 13, 1924. 

UPDATE 3:

Nationalist Sinn Féin has emerged as the largest U.K. parliamentary party in Northern Ireland by holding its seven seats from the 2019 election while the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) lost three seats in a split among unionists. Sinn Féin now has the most seats in local council offices, the power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly, and at Westminster, though the party does not take its seats in the London parliament.

The unionist debacle included the “political earthquake” of the DUP loosing the North Antrim seat held by the late firebrand Ian Paisley, then his namesake son, since 1970. The seat tipped to Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister. The Alliance Party captured the Lagan Valley seat held by Sir Jeffery Donaldson, the former DUP leader now criminal charged with sexual offences. Sorcha Eastwood, 38, is the first non-unionist and first woman to win the seat.

Political observers suggest the massive majority won by Labour at Westminster will foster a “reset” between London and Dublin, with implications not only for British-Irish relations but also between Northern Ireland and the Republic. More in the next update.

UPDATE 2:

Labour has won a landslide victory in the U.K. general election, according to BBC exit polling. Party leader Keir Starmer will becomes the new prime minister. … Results from Northern Ireland are likely to remain outstanding until early July 5, U.S. Eastern time.

UPDATE 1:

Voting is underway in the U.K. until 10 p.m. local time, or 5 p.m. U.S. Eastern time. The U.K. does not permit exit polling to be reported while the voting is ongoing. (Original post below the photo.)

Former U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, standing at right center, addresses the House of Commons on May 15. He was ousted by the Labour landslide. ©House of Commons

ORIGINAL POST:

Voters in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom head to the polls Thursday, July 4. Many observers believe the election will boot the Conservatives from power after 14 years, five prime ministers, and one Brexit.

Northern Ireland, bright yellow, and the rest of the U.K.

Only 18 of the 650 seats at Westminster represent constituencies in the six partitioned counties of Ireland. Sinn Féin nationalists don’t bother making the trip to London. But the election results will matter as the North continues to find its post-Brexit footing as the only part of the U.K. with a European Union land border–the Republic of Ireland. The make up of the Northern Ireland delegation, and the full Parliament and new prime minister, will also impact ongoing speculation about holding a referendum on whether to re-unify Ireland.

Of course, both of these matters will be influenced by the still unscheduled national election in the Republic, which must take place by spring. And, too a lesser degree, the U.S. election in November.

In the 2019 U.K. election, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) won the most seats in Northern Ireland with eight. The resignation of party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has reduced that to seven. Sinn Féin also has seven seats. Michelle O’Neill, the party vice-president, is first minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the power-sharing local government established by the Good Friday Agreement. At Westminster, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) hold two seats and the non-aligned Alliance Party one.

Sinn Féin, which took a beating in last month’s local and E.U. elections in the Republic, may not make gains in the North, but still could emerge with the most seats. On the unionist side, the vote could be split between the DUP, the Ulster Unionists, and Traditional Unionist Voice. This may help the Alliance.

The BBC offers this roundup of key races in the North.

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