Sinn Fein overtook the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) by voting for the province’s 90-member National Assembly, winning the most seats, 27, and securing the highest share of first preference votes. This compares with 25 seats for the DUP and 17 for the Alliance Party.
The vote tally ended early Sunday, with all 90 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly now occupied, according to Britain’s PA news agency.
I feel good is now the largest party in the assembly and can nominate a prime minister for the first time. The party opposes Northern Ireland becoming part of the United Kingdom and is in favor of a united Ireland.
“Preparations for the constitutional amendment in Ireland must begin now,” Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald told CNN Friday night as the results emerged. “We need to be aware of the fact that change is happening.
“It is my absolute determination that that change will be completely peaceful,” she added.
That day remains a distant prospect, despite the outcome of Thursday’s vote. But Sinn Fein’s emergence as Northern Ireland’s largest party could nevertheless force a conversation around a so-called border poll.
Sinn Fein was once closely associated with the IRA, which fought a bloody three-decade military campaign to end British rule and unite the island of Ireland, although the party has since positioned itself as a left-wing political party to the base that focuses on social issues to the north and south of the border.
The success in Thursday’s Northern Ireland poll was aided by a slide from the DUP, which has held the post of Prime Minister since 2007 and briefly supported Theresa May’s Conservative government in Westminster from 2017.