Sinn Fein overtook the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in voting for the province’s 90-member National Assembly, winning the most seats, 27, and securing the largest share of first-preference votes. This compares to 24 seats for the DUP and 17 for the Alliance Party.
The counting of the votes is still underway on Saturday, with 88 of the 90 seats counted, according to the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland.
Sinn Fein are now in pole position to install a prime minister for the first time. The party opposes Northern Ireland becoming part of the United Kingdom and favors a united Ireland.
“The preparation for constitutional change in Ireland must start now,” Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald told CNN on Friday evening as the results began to emerge. “We have to be aware that change is happening.
“It is my absolute determination that this change will be entirely peaceful,” she added.
That day remains a distant prospect despite the results of Thursday’s vote. But Sinn Fein’s emergence as Northern Ireland’s largest party could nonetheless 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 political party leftist focused on northern social issues. and south of the border.
His success in Thursday’s Northern Ireland poll was helped by a slide from the DUP, which has served as prime minister since 2007 and briefly supported Theresa May’s Conservative government in Westminster from 2017.