A dark day for the Union
Thursday’s Northern Ireland Assembly election proved a sad day for all Loyal Ulstermen and their friends across our increasingly Disunited Kingdom.
The costly shambles over the Renewable Heat Incentive (otherwise known as ‘Cash for Ash’) was cynically exploited by two parties – Sinn Fein and (shamefully) the Official Unionist Party – but predictably only Sinn Fein benefited.
Terrorist sympathiser Michelle O’Neill thus took a step closer to becoming First Minister of Northern Ireland, while the IRA godfathers behind her celebrated yet another own goal by the Unionist establishment.
With the Assembly reduced to 90 seats, the target for the Democratic Unionist Party was 30 seats – enough to ensure an effective veto known as a “petition of concern”, but they have fallen two seats short. Critically this means that even with the support of Jim Allister, leader of Traditional Unionist Voice, who retained his seat in North Antrim, the DUP will not have the 30 votes required for an effective block on (for example) gay marriage.
As for broader issues of who now runs Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein are likely to use their strengthened position to claim the scalp of Arlene Foster, DUP leader and outgoing First Minister. Edwin Poots, re-elected for the DUP in Lagan Valley, supported his leader today but hinted that she might be considering her position.
While it is unlikely that the DUP and Sinn Fein will be able to agree a new coalition within the official three week deadline, something will doubtless be patched up in due course to avoid a return to direct rule from London, which would be a disaster for Prime Minister Theresa May.
The big loser on Thursday – deservedly – was Official Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt who resigned after the failure of his opportunistic effort to destabilise the DUP. Nesbitt had called on his supporters to give their second preference votes to the nationalist SDLP rather than to the DUP, a shocking betrayal of the unionist interest.
Meanwhile UKIP confirmed their utter irrelevance in Northern Ireland. They contested just one Assembly constituency – East Antrim – but this tactic of concentrating their resources failed miserably. UKIP candidate and Carrickfergus councillor Noel Jordan was eliminated with just 4.2% of first preferences. (The Assembly is elected by the Single Transferable Vote system, with each constituency now electing five MLAs.)
Mr Jordan told the Belfast Newsletter:
“We just don’t know what happened. I can’t explain why our vote has dropped.”