Nationalists take the lead in North of Ireland

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The election results in the North of Ireland saw a drop in the overall share of the vote for the two main parties at Stormont. Both the DUP (down 5.4 percent) and Sinn Fein (down 6.7 percent).

The DUP lost two MPs to the Alliance Party in Strangford and to Sinn Fein in North Belfast, where John Finucane whose father Pat was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries, ousted Nigel Dodds, one of its leading strategists. Sinn Fein dramatically lost Foyle to the SDLP.

In a number of constituencies there were significant swings away from both parties to the Alliance, sister party to the Liberal Democrats in Britain, and to the SDLP, closely allied to Fianna Fail in the South of Ireland.

The swing from the DUP to the Alliance in Belfast South was 18 percent, in Lagan 17 percent, in Strangford 14 percent, in East Antrim 12 percent and in East Belfast an 8 percent swing.

In Strangford, the seat the DUP lost, there was a dramatic 18 percent swing. Sinn Fein’s loss in Foyle also saw an 18 percent swing, in this case to the SDLP.

In West Belfast, once an impregnable Sinn Fein fortress, there was a swing of 9.4 percent to Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit, campaigning on socialist policies and against the welfare cuts that both Sinn Fein and the DUP had supported.

Having already won a seat to the Northern Ireland Assembly, his 16 percent of the vote was a highly creditable performance for a constituency in a general election.

There is now a majority of votes for Nationalist parties in the North for the first time.

In a future issue of Socialist Review we will look at the implications of this vote for the future of the border and the impact on any Brexit agreement.

However, it seems clear that many voters are becoming disillusioned with the two parties central to the power sharing agreement at Stormont.

This is partly because of the suspension of the Assembly since 2017 and the impasse in negotiations to reactivate it, but also because of their imposition of Tory austerity measures and welfare cuts.

It is the DUP, however, that has suffered the most humiliating embarrassment. Having been feted by Theresa May and bribed with £1 billion when she needed their votes, they have been thrown under a bus by Boris Johnson who now has a majority without them.

For their bigoted pains they have been forced to concede to same sex marriage and abortion reform.

Emboldened by their comfortable majority, the Tories are demanding that the Assembly is reconvened and are threatening to force fresh elections to it if Sinn Fein and the DUP cannot come to an agreement.

Whatever the outcome of this pressure the North faces a critical future with the impact of Brexit and increasing speculation about the future of the border with the South.