Conflict in Northern Ireland Part 8
Martin McGuinness passed away in January 2017 and his position within Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland was taken over by Michelle O’Neill. Attempts to resolve the crisis failed and in January new elections were announced for March 2, 2017.
The new election became historic. The Unionist parties lost ground and for the first time lost their majority in Stormont. The DUP retained its seat as the largest party by a narrow margin, ahead of Sinn Féin (DUP received 28 seats, Sinn Féin 27 seats, SDLP 12 seats and UUP 10 seats, before the election the number of parliamentary seats had been reduced from 108 to 90). But the election did not solve anything, the parties’ positions were as locked as before.
A new British election in June 2017 (see UK: Political system ) exacerbated the problems. The election was a setback for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative party, which lost its majority in the British Parliament. At the same time, it was a success for DUP, which won 10 seats, two more than in 2015, and Sinn Féin, which received 7 seats.
After the election, the DUP gained a key role by promising to support Theresa May’s government. There were warnings from several quarters that this would upset the already sensitive dynamics of Northern Ireland and that a British government dependent on the DUP could not be seen as a neutral mediator in the province. In exchange for promises to support the government in important budget votes and in Brexit issues, the DUP managed to negotiate an extra £ 1 billion grant for Northern Ireland for health, education and infrastructure (a year later only a small part of the money had been paid out, but a disbursement of over £ 400 million awaited approval from the British Parliament.
At the same time, talks continued to form a new provincial government. Symbolic issues such as the position of the Irish in Northern Ireland created problems in the deliberations. The IS Andrews Agreement in 2006 promised a law that would strengthen the position of the Irish language, something that the DUP opposed. Another sensitive topic was what history writing about the conflict years would look like. Several deadlines were passed without anything new happening. In late autumn 2017, it was the government of London that had to present Northern Ireland’s budget.
When the Brexit negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU started, according to 800zipcodes, Northern Ireland and the border issue came into the spotlight, despite all parties agreeing that there would be no new “hard” border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. When the negotiations on the actual divorce between the EU and the UK were completed at the end of 2017, it became clear that all parties had chosen to postpone the problems. The DUP opposed any attempt to find a special solution for Northern Ireland, fearing that the ties between the province and the rest of the British Union would be severed. An attempt to solve the problem by having the whole of Britain enter into a temporary customs union with the EU, pending a new trade agreement, was voted down by the British House of Commons in early 2019. In the autumn of the same year, the British government came, which was now led by Boris Johnson, and the EU against all odds agreed on changes to the exit agreement negotiated in 2018, and it became clear that the UK would leave the EU on 31 October 2020. However, the agreement stipulated that Northern Ireland, while The UK customs area will apply some of the EU customs rules. In this way, a border, with physical barriers and customs controls, can be avoided between Northern Ireland and Ireland. On the other hand, checks must be made on goods when they are shipped from the British mainland to Northern Ireland, if they will not remain there.
Under Johnson, the DUP lost its role as wave leader, and when a new British parliamentary election was held in late 2019, his Conservative party gained its own majority in the lower house. Faced with the threat of a new election in Northern Ireland, the Northern Irish parties agreed to form a new government in Belfast that could take office in January 2020.
READING TIPS : read more about Northern Ireland in UI’s publication Utrikesmagasinet:
The results of the 2011 census were presented in December 2012. It shows that Protestants were still in the majority, 48 percent, while Catholics were 45 percent. Seven percent belonged to other religions or said they had no religion. The census asked for the first time what nationality the inhabitants considered themselves to have. It turned out that 40 percent said they were British only, 25 percent that they were only Irish and 21 percent only Northern Irish. But about one in ten residents said they had a dual identity.