Michelle O’Neill walks into the Assembly Chamber before being nominated as First Minister at Stormont on February 3, 2024 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin has become the new First Minister of Northern Ireland. This appointment is the first time that a nationalist has held the post of Prime Minister. Two years have passed since devolution ended the return of the power-sharing executive. The DUP decided to end its boycott of Stormont on Tuesday after agreeing a new deal with the government on post-Brexit trade rules. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

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Northern Ireland’s parliament on Saturday appointed an Irish nationalist as first minister for the first time, a historic milestone in a state established a century ago to ensure the dominance of pro-Britain unionists.

The appointment of Michelle O’Neill, the delayed result of the 2022 election, is the latest sign of the rise of the Sinn Fein party in the British territory which has said a united Ireland is its ultimate dream. “within touching distance”.

The appointment comes as Sinn Féin’s pro-British rival, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), officially ends its two-year boycott of the ruling government. To make a contract With the British government to reduce trade disputes after Brexit.

“This is a historic day that represents a new dawn,” O’Neill, 47, told the assembly. “I will serve everyone equally and be everyone’s first minister.

“I apologize for all the lives lost during the conflict without exception,” O’Neill added.

The UK minister for the region, Chris Heaton-Harris, said the restoration of government was “a great day for Northern Ireland”.

O’Neill Sinn Fein represents a shift towards a new generation of politicians who are not directly involved in the region’s decades-long bloody conflict between Irish nationalists seeking a united Ireland and pro-British unionists.

As the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Sinn Féin has long been shunned by the political establishment on both sides of the border. It is also now the most popular party in the Irish Republic.

The post of Deputy First Minister, which has equal power but less symbolic weight, was held by the DUP’s Emma Little Pengley.

The opposition

Tight security was put in place around the assembly building, but there was no sign of trouble.

Opposition to O’Neill’s appointment was led by the Traditional Unionist Vice Party, which has also rejected the DUP’s trade deal.

TUV sole deputy Jim Allister said, “We have a Sinn Fein First Minister, but not in my name, and not in the name of the thousands of unionists who will never bow the knee to IRA Sinn Fein.”

While Sinn Féin has discussed the possibility of a coalition this week, Northern Ireland’s politicians are under intense pressure to tackle bread-and-butter problems after a two-year hiatus that has put pressure on already stretched public services. are

A referendum on unity is at the discretion of the British government and opinion polls show a clear majority in favor of remaining part of the United Kingdom permanently.

The two-year shutdown is likely to lead to more calls for reforms to the rules that allow the largest parties on both sides to repeatedly disable power-sharing for long periods of time.

Both the Irish and British governments have said they are open to it. To consider correction

“They’re fed up,” lawyer Tara Walsh, 40, said of the general mood on Belfast’s streets. “People want change.”

Sinn Féin’s pitch to voters in Northern Ireland’s 2022 election focused on economic concerns, echoing its playbook in Ireland where the party has had success campaigning on everyday issues such as housing.

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