In the end, only a handful of seats actually changed hands. Significant, and some might say seismic. But as predicted, a lot more is being read into it than it deserves.
Plenty of drama with high profile losses in a horrible night for SDLP and UUP, a surge in Alliance and a strong performance from Sinn Féin.
The big old parties in the peace process have been shrunk once more. Possibly mortally wounded this time.
Many were cynical that Doug’s (Beattie) strategy would work for the UUP. You were right. Once again, the elusive Liberal union voter proved difficult to find – and even more difficult to get him to the ballot box.
Alliance consolidated the middle. These weren’t disaffected DUP voters fleeing to the Alliance; Instead, Naomi (long) collected the votes of her fellow civic parties SDLP and UUP.
The SDLP had a nightmare. High-profile sacrifices and big losses. Small in number at first, they’ll find it hard to sustain that further punch. You will have plenty of time to reflect on where it all went wrong. They also lose their right to an executive seat. Incredible stuff. Few predicted this meltdown. Eastwood was confident, almost cheerful, about the leadership debates. He’ll have to think hard now if the SDLP is to survive.
Despite predictions of an all-out horror show for the DUP, she pulled through with a solid performance. Loss of MOT votes in almost all constituencies, but holding on to avoid complete disaster. I suspect it was not as Sir Jeffrey would have hoped or prayed for.
He remains in a delicate situation. The union majority was lost in the last general election and there is more bad news in this one. There will be dismay and disappointment, but that wasn’t entirely unexpected.
TÜV won no seats from the DUP – but a strong showing certainly cost the DUP seats, reducing their votes in almost every constituency. There is no doubt that some of this is a vote to send a message to London for the record. However, it is also, to a significant extent, a message to the DUP.
These votes cannot be taken for granted, at the heart of the union vote discontent abounds.
The DUP’s internal turmoil over the past 12 months compounded the numerous challenges stemming from Brexit, protocol and other issues it has faced. Sir Jeffrey didn’t have time to wrap this up properly.
He managed to keep things relatively together and came through with just a few losses. South Down was a notable exception. Foyle and North Down too – possibly ramifications of the internal tensions and chaos of last summer’s DUP leadership drama.
He needed something on the log. He didn’t get it. Under pressure from the union right, he took action from a limited and suboptimal range of unattractive options. He had to play, it stabilized the ship – but it wasn’t enough.
Nobody predicted that the DUP or Sinn Féin would increase their seat numbers. It was a contest to see who could lose the least. However, a strong and solid performance from Sinn Féin ensured there were no SF casualties in the 2022 election.
The First Minister’s question clearly woke voters to Sinn Féin as it once did to the DUP.
Importantly, unionism remains the largest designation. The overall rating for Sinn Féin corresponds almost exactly to the overall rating of DUP and TÜV.
Power-sharing only works when all sides acknowledge each other’s serious problems and concerns. Simply dismissing trade unionist and protocol concerns won’t do the trick. Until there is a solution, executive and power-sharing will not return. The protocol continues to destabilize institutions and upset the careful balance of past agreements.
When will people start taking this seriously? As has been said many times before, it is unmanufactured. London needs to start listening. Other parties here too.
Collective problem solving can save the institutions, ignoring them makes the problem worse.
The fact that Sinn Féin is First Minister does not indicate a significant shift towards a position in favor of the referendum.
In 1998, the SDLP and Sinn Féin had 39.6 percent of the popular vote; UUP and DUP had 39.4 percent. In this election, SDLP and SF had 40 percent, DUP, UUP and TÜV 42 percent. Hardly anything has changed in almost 25 years.
Don’t fall for the spin. That said, spin it, they will. Expect top-class campaigns on an international level as well. This will only increase spectacularly if or when Mary-Lou (McDonald) comes to power in Dublin.
So here we are, a First Minister for Northern Ireland who does not use the term Northern Ireland and whose primary objective is to abolish the very place she wishes to serve. You couldn’t invent it.
Emma Little-Pengelly is a former DUP politician
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/no-one-really-hoped-to-win-it-was-a-contest-of-who-could-lose-the-least-41627347.html No one really hoped to win – it was a contest to see who could lose the least