Historic day in Northern Ireland: Republicana…

Historic day in Northern Ireland: Republicana…
Historic day in Northern Ireland: Republicana…

Michelle O’Neill on Saturday became the first republican – favorable to Irish unification – to take over the leadership of the government of Northern Ireland, a historic change of direction in the British province whose past has been marked by three decades of bloody conflicts, reports AFP.

Northern Ireland Sinn Fein leader O’Neill, 47, was named prime minister after the province’s institutions were restarted. They had been blocked for two years due to a boycott by unionists in the DUP, who opposed post-Brexit trade deals, which they denounced as a threat to Northern Ireland’s place within the UK.

Michelle O’Neill hailed “a historic day” and a “new era”, stressing that it would have been “unimaginable for (her) parents’ generation” for a nationalist to lead the local executive.

“We must never forget those who lost their lives or were injured, as well as their families,” she added in relation to the unrest that left 3,500 victims. “I am sorry for all the lives lost during the conflict, without exception,” she insisted, expressing her determination to continue the work of reconciliation: “we cannot change the past,” but “we can build a better future.”

Sinn Fein emerged victorious in the May 2022 election, an unprecedented turnaround for the party that was once the political showcase of the IRA (Irish Republican Army), but political deadlock prevented Michelle O’Neill from taking office.

The local government, responsible for areas such as housing, health, employment, agriculture and the environment, is to be established. Daily affairs have been managed by the administration and London for the past two years due to the impasse that caused exasperation among the population.

After months of negotiations with the British government, unionists in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) announced this week their decision to end the boycott.

Underlining the difficult road traveled, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson claimed that his party had “brought about the change that many described as impossible”. He hailed it as a “good day for Northern Ireland” where “our place within the UK and its internal market is respected and protected”.

This argument is far from convincing the hardest unionists, such as Jim Allister (TUV, Traditional Unionist Voice), for whom Northern Ireland remains “governed largely by foreign laws”, those of the EU.

One of the main difficulties in implementing Brexit was finding a solution that would avoid the return of a physical border between the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, and the British province, while protecting the integrity of the European single market.

A change to these provisions negotiated between London and Brussels a year ago, known as the “Windsor framework” and reducing controls on goods, was not enough to convince the DUP.

But this week, the unionist party led by Jeffrey Donaldson finally accepted a deal with the British government, saying the text offered enough guarantees and that it eliminated the Irish Sea border it had denounced.

The relaunch of Northern Irish institutions will also allow London to unlock 3.3 billion pounds (about 3.9 billion euros) to support public services, which recently faced a strike of historic proportions.

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The article is in Romanian

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