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This was a day when so much changed.

There was a photo-finish in terms of seats and the share of the vote.
The DUP just got 28 seats with Sinn Fein securing 27 seats.

Across the 18 constituencies just over a thousand votes separated them.

And across the parties, when all the counting was done, the overall unionist majority was gone.

The breakdown of the 90 seats – 40 unionists, 39 nationalists, 11 others.

Big names lost their seats. Mike Nesbitt resigned as Ulster Unionist leader.

What is meant by last chance?

That politics so broken by all the fallout of recent events now needs time to mend – more time than the few weeks that the political schedule allows.

What brought about this surge in the Sinn Fein vote?

Not just the RHI debacle. Add to that the DUP pantomime that played out in Stormont on December 19th, Then, days later, the withdrawal of Liofa funding (later reinstated) and then Arlene Foster’s use of that term crocodile to dismiss demands for an Irish language Act – that if you feed Sinn Fein it will come back for more.
Martin McGuinness responded with the politically nuclear option of resignation. The institutions collapsed, an election was triggered and the voting has changed so much.

The idea that a deal can now be done in a few weeks is just nonsense.

This time, there is the need for agreements that will stick. A need for Secretary of State James Brokenshire to think about his role as talks chair, for someone outside of the governments and the parties to perform that role and new conversations are needed.

A legacy deal is not achievable in a few weeks. This issue needs a new conversation that addresses cooperation across the board, the question of imprisonment and what realistically is possible when it comes to giving answers and sharing information. It is time to be honest about the truth.

Time is also needed to manage the election casualties.

Sinn Fein has a spring in its step. 

The DUP and UUP have been bruised, The SDLP did better than expected and, in holding their ten seats in this smaller Assembly, Alliance and the Green Party punched above their weight.
Someone now needs to press a pause button and allow time to see what can be achieved.

This is a last chance to get this right, to try to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

That opportunity needs a thought-through approach, not another sprint into something half-baked and half hearted.

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About Author

Eamonn Mallie

I am a regular contributor to discussion programmes on TV and radio both at home and abroad. An experienced political editor and author specialising in Politics, Security and 20th Century Art.


  1. Jake MacSiacais on

    As big affable (sic) Ken, aka Major Kenneth Wiggins Maginnis, Baron of Drumglass noted during David Trimble’s step into obscurity, Unionism seems incapable of absorbing the lesson that “every time Unionists are forced back to negotiations the salami is always sliced thinner.”.

  2. I know it’s a bit of a cheap shot but I wonder how quickly a deal would be done if none of them were to be paid until an exec up and running…

  3. Paul Crawford on

    I disagree Brian. For me it was a day when much changed because politics did work. It was a day when people, in my opinion, voted on the issues rather than a sectarian headcount. That the DUP took such a hit bears this out, especially when you look at the very reasonable stances of other PUL based parties and the respectable support they attracted. As a nationalist and republican I did not miss the peaceful and focused messages from people like John Kyle – but they never got much of a window of opportunity for air time in the mainstream media.

    Something else changed which illustrates how far we have come. To my knowledge in the aftermath no interfaces were attacked, no buses were burnt and no-one was shot. All of these are indicators that people are more politically educated and that the hard won peace is solid. No – people voted on the issues.

    Among these issues you rightly identify legacy. To my mind the blocking of existing legacy agreements by the DUP cost them dearly while Sinn Fein’s stance of equality and justice for all paid them dividends. The agreements are there but they need to be implemented. Furthermore it is absolutely vital that ALL combatant groups are involved in the processes.

    There were conditions created which triggered the conflict. There were conditions created which established the peace. And there is an urgent need for the conditions to be created to enable the addressing of legacy through the honouring of existing agreements. Thursday’s election was a major step towards creating the necessary conditions because the overwhelming message is that what went before, in terms of blocking, was and is unacceptable.

  4. My hope is that the 30% who didn’t turn out to vote because they are so disenchanted by ‘same old’ will feel energised and encouraged by these signs of change at last.

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