After two years of political crisis, Northern Ireland has a government again. For the first time, it is led by a Catholic, republican politician: Michelle O’Neill
The regional parliament in Belfast elected 47-year-old Michelle O’Neill of the Sinn Fein party as prime minister on Saturday. For example, the region previously torn by civil war is now led by a politician who strives for reunification with EU member state Ireland.
“This is a historic day that represents a new future,” 47-year-old O’Neill said in her acceptance speech. “I will treat everyone equally and be a prime minister for all.”
O’Neill must govern together with the DUP, the largest Protestant party, which defends political union with Great Britain. This also provides the equally powerful but less visible Deputy Prime Minister Emma Little-Pengelly.
The previous government in Belfast fell two years ago. Since then, the DUP has refused to participate in government, in protest against the Brexit exception rules for Northern Ireland. The DUP argued that the settlement agreed with the EU threatened the union of Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
But recently the DUP agreed a document with central government in London that emphasized unity. The party then gave up its resistance. The Good Friday Agreement, which ended the civil war in Northern Ireland in 1998, stipulates that a unity government must be formed with both denominations.