The British, US and Irish governments urged rival parties in Northern Ireland to work together to revive the power-sharing government after the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein scored a historic victory to become the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Sinn Fein, which seeks union with Ireland, won 27 seats in the 90-seat legislature, beating the DUP, which had 25. It is the first time in Northern Ireland’s history that an Irish nationalist party leads the vote.
But it is not clear whether Sinn Fein will lead a new government due to Northern Ireland’s delicate power-sharing policies and continuing disagreements over the legacy of Brexit.
While Sinn Féin’s deputy chairwoman Michelle O’Neill now has the right to serve as First Minister, a functioning Northern Ireland executive – or a delegated government – cannot be formed unless the largest trade union party agrees to join the position of First Deputy Minister.
In February, Paul Gevan of the DUP resigned as Prime Minister in protest of the post-Border arrangements, the collapse of the executive. His party said he would not return to the government unless their demands on customs arrangements were met.
Leaders in London and Dublin said all parties must now reconstitute the Northern Ireland government as soon as possible.
Irish Prime Minister Michel Martin said late Saturday that “all political parties and elected representatives must now fulfill their mandate”.
“Power-sharing and the principles of partnership, equality and mutual respect are at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement, through which peace and progress have been achieved for nearly 25 years,” he added. “Having a new power-sharing executive is vital to the progress and prosperity of everyone in Northern Ireland.”
In London, Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis said he would meet party leaders on Monday to discuss how to reshape a functioning government.
Lewis reiterated his position that the UK government wants to reach an agreement with the EU to resolve disputes over post-Brexit rules known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The DUP is vehemently opposed to the rules, which have imposed customs and border checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the British Confederations, and union members say the new checks created a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK undermining the British. identification.
Britain’s Conservative government is trying to get the European Union to agree to major changes, but negotiations are deadlocked.
Lewis told the BBC on Sunday: “The position of the UK government is that we want to secure a deal with the EU. We are very clear about that.” “We have been working hard on it for over a year now through a series of talks. We made proposals. The EU has not shown any flexibility.”
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said post-Brexit problems were an “obstacle to stability” in Northern Ireland, and that the government in London would take “all necessary measures” to try to resolve them.
“It is clear from the dynamic that we see now that we will not reach this position of stability unless it is reformed,” Raab said.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price also urged Northern Ireland’s political leaders to take the necessary steps to re-establish a functioning government.
The legacy of Brexit adds an additional challenge to Northern Ireland politics, which operates under a delicate system that divides power between the largest British unionist party and the largest Irish nationalist party. The order was established by the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement that ended decades of Catholic-Protestant conflict.
If the power-sharing executive is not formed within six months, new elections may be held.