Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, March 09, 2017

It's not just in Scotland that Brexit is causing change

Besides the three kingdoms of the UK there's Northern Ireland. None of the non-England territories voted for Brexit, but the prospect is causing political change throughout the country.

Northern Ireland Voters Give Sinn Fein Its Biggest Win Ever
Sinn Fein, the main Catholic nationalist party in Northern Ireland, won its greatest share of legislative seats ever after a snap election this weekend, creating a virtual tie with its Protestant rivals and throwing nearly two decades of peaceful power sharing into turmoil.

The election comes at a time of increased polarization and fears that Britain’s planned exit from the European Union could lead to customs and security checks along the border with Ireland, economic strife and a return to sectarian conflict. Never before has the Protestant majority, which has used its status to shape social policy and defeat a ballot on merging with Ireland, been so threatened politically.

Sinn Fein won 27 of 90 available posts in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Its rival, the Democratic Unionist Party, made up of Protestants who support remaining a part of Britain, lost 10 seats and were left with 28.

Under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought an end to the decades-long sectarian strife known as the Troubles, Catholics and Protestants share governance of the region, along with the British government. The two parties must now form a new government within the next three weeks or else return to a period of “direct rule” from Britain…

The Democratic Unionist Party is allied with Britain’s Conservative Party, which is pursuing Brexit, while Sinn Fein wants Northern Ireland to stay in the European Union and eventually merge with Ireland.

There is also growing indignation about a perceived lack of concern from London about Northern Ireland…

If the two leading parties do not reach agreement within the three-week time frame imposed by the British-appointed secretary of state for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, the government must either call another election or reimpose direct rule.

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