Northern Ireland is now free from a two-year impasse, paving the way for the reunification of Ireland. On the first Saturday of February, Michelle O’Neill from the nationalist Sinn Fein party was named the new head of government in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein advocates for Irish reunification and has a long history with the IRA, with her father having been a member and later becoming a councilor for the party.
Although Sinn Fein received the most votes in the May 2022 election, they failed to form a government due to opposition from unionist parties. The legislation requires that the Northern Ireland Executive consists of members from both nationalist and unionist parties. However, after two years of boycotting the National Assembly, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) finally agreed to form a government by accepting £3 billion in funding from Britain.
O’Neill’s family background reflects the connection between Sinn Fein and the IRA, with her father having been a member and her cousin killed by British forces during their fight for Irish independence. With O’Neill leading the new government, there is now a nationalist holding the top position in Northern Ireland’s Executive for the first time since Ireland was partitioned over 100 years ago.
The recent CNBC report brought attention to O’Neill’s family history and her passionate belief in Irish reunification as she expressed plans to hold a referendum on reunification within ten years. However, both Britain and O’Neill’s unionist allies are not pleased with this possibility as they believe that it is best to focus on day-to-day issues rather than constitutional ones.