I will be honest and admit that the recent Assembly election in the North passed me by virtually unnoticed (I am also busy at another, more important project right now) and it was only the media’s animated excitement over the result that caught my eye: a breakthrough triumph for Sinn Fein the journalists said, it seemed, almost to a man and woman.
And there was the proof; Michelle O’Neill, the North’s SF leader had been propelled into the top job and her party, Sinn Fein, was now the largest in the Assembly. What a triumph for the Adams’ strategy, was the next thought. And this too was the seemingly unanimous verdict of the media. “Historic” trumpeted Bllomberg News; “An Earthquake” announced Esquire magazine. And the Irish Times was not far behind: “….could be the most important election in a generation”.
And evidence, at least to my eyes, that the Johnson government felt the same, came with the sudden rush from Number Ten to erase the EU Protocol, balm to Unionist nerves and to the Tory Right, now facing the terrifying prospect of a triumph for one-time mad bombers.
Now I have to admit that I let this one pass, for reasons explained above, although media excitement on this level of hysteria would have, in the not so recent past, spurred me to at least consider whether scepticism was really the only possible response. And that’s a pity, because it seems that the answer to that question is ‘yes’.
So I am grateful to Dixie Elliott for writing this piece on Facebook which tells the part of the story that myself and the rest of the media missed, or just failed to see:
“Now that the weekend of much-ado-about-nothing is over lets look at reality.
“Given the Unionist stance on not sharing power in the Stormont executive with a Sinn Féin First Minister we were expecting a huge surge in the Sinn Féin vote.
“It didn’t happen. They remain on 27 seats and their overall vote only increased 1.1% from the 2017 Assembly elections and was in fact down 0.4% from the 2019 Westminster election.
“Not only that, the claim that Sinn Féin is the first Nationalist party to top the polls in the assembly elections is wrong, the SDLP did that in 1998 and lost out to the position of First Minister because the UUP got more seats on that occasion.
This time the Unionist vote was split and Sinn Féin got to have the position of First Minister because of this.
However, if they want the First Minister position then they have to give in to Unionist demands over the one thing tearing Unionism apart, the Protocol, or it’s no executive.
They can’t do that because the power to do so is between the Tories and the EU.
If the Brits try to change the Protocol then Unionism is still getting its own way and nothing has changed and the claim that Unionist domination is at an end is meaningless.
Also, now that they are the largest party in the executive means that Sinn Féin has to deliver on the promises it made on the run up to the election. There is no hiding behind Carson’s statue in that regard.
As for Derry, the Sinn Féin vote was down 3.8% while the SDLP vote was down 0.9% meaning that the people in the city are increasingly growing tired of hearing the same promises which disappear like the clouds in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land after the elections…