Northern Ireland Citizens Demand a Government


The council elections in the North of Ireland demonstrate an undeniable truth: voters overwhelmingly have directed their representatives to get back to work and earn their pay. The Democratic Unionist Party, espousing a one-note message of “Just Say No” to government, received a paltry 23% of the vote. Sinn Fein and other parties campaigned on “bread and butter” issues of delivering important public services and re-establishing the Stormont Executive. Consequently, Sinn Fein saw a surge in its vote share from 23% to 30%, while Alliance likewise increased its share to 13.3%, resulting in an increase of 28% in its council seats. The main parties calling for a return to Stormont – Sinn Fein, Alliance, UUP and SDLP – garnered 64% of the overall vote. That message cannot and must not be ignored. Underscoring the will of the people, the voter turnout was a robust 54%.

The time for the DUP’s obstructionist, juvenile tactics has long since passed. People in the North are suffering increasingly from the stonewalling of government services. In the wake of the elections, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris said “I think we’ve seen that people want their politicians to get into Stormont and start making political choices about how money is spent in Northern Ireland, and that’s what we need to see.” Similarly, First Minister-Designate Michelle O’Neill emphasized that “A one party boycott of the assembly cannot go on, and an executive must be formed now.”

In the absence of Stormont, the Northern Secretary sets the budget, which has been branded a “punishment budget” by the North’s political parties due to multimillion Euro cuts to public services. Exacerbating this, civil servants lack the necessary authority to determine new budget allocations. NI Police Federation chair Liam Kelly criticised politicians for “throwing the teddies out of the pram” over the Northern Ireland protocol and urged them to end their “squabbling” and go back into power-sharing.

The DUP must accept reality and the will of the overwhelming majority of people in the North. If it does not re-enter Stormont, then it is imperative that the Irish and British Governments accept their responsibilities for the citizens of the North and exercise joint authority.

Irish American Unity Conference

May 26, 2023