After the Good Friday peace deal, Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill can only take the post in a power-sharing executive branch with the second-largest party, the Democratic Unionists, says Paul Routledge
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Here’s another fine mess they got themselves into.
Sinn Féin’s victory in the Stormont general election is driving everyone nuts.
Politicians in London, Dublin, Washington, Brussels and Belfast are scrambling to find a solution to the constitutional crisis she has created.
As the largest party in the Assembly, Sinn Féin has the right to appoint its leader, Michelle O’Neill, as First Minister of Northern Ireland.
But under the Good Friday Peace Accords, she can only hold a post in a power-sharing executive branch with the second largest party, the Democratic Unionists.
And Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, dour leader of the DUP, refuses to share power unless the UK government scraps or radically waters down the Irish protocol that establishes a tariff barrier between Ulster and Britain.
Boris Johnson has promised this repeatedly, possibly in the Brexit Freedoms Bill to be announced in the Queen’s speech tomorrow.
But that move would throw the UK into a full-scale trade and diplomatic war with Europe, and the Prime Minister has reportedly had concerns.
He has previously revealed his commitments to the DUP. To their anger, he negotiated the Brexit deal that established the barrier in the Irish Sea.
Edwin Poots, former DUP leader, warned: “You will destroy the Good Friday Agreement if you do not implement the protocol. They are not compatible with each other. The political process hangs by a thread.”
Ulster parties have six months to form an executive and Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis has urged them to do so “as soon as possible”.
He will have urgent talks with leaders in the province today.
Pressure is also building from the Biden administration, which is seeking a resolution to the crisis that threatens to undermine the 1998 peace accord.
The US State Department yesterday reiterated the administration’s calls for a speedy power-sharing agreement.
With the province’s Loyalist marching season just under eight weeks away, tensions could rise further after the breakaway Traditional Unionist Voice party won 8% of the vote last week. It calls for the complete and immediate abolition of the Protocol.
Sinn Féin downplayed the question of reunification during the election but spoke yesterday of a border poll within five years and insisted “the compass is set for even bigger changes”.
Whatever the compass says, the barometer is set for stormy weather.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/sinn-feins-victory-stormont-election-26907858 "Sinn Fein's victory in the Stormont general election drives everyone nuts" - Paul Routledge