Northern Ireland has finally put an end to a two-year impasse, paving the way for a new era in resolving a conflict that has been ongoing for over a century. On the first Saturday of February, Michelle O’Neill from the nationalist Sinn Féin party was appointed as the new head of government in Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin is a party that advocates for the reunification of Ireland and once served as the political arm of the terrorist group IRA. Although they received the most votes in the May 2022 election, they failed to form a government due to opposition from unionist parties.
However, an agreement has now been reached, leading to a transfer of £3 billion pounds from the British government to public services in Northern Ireland. With O’Neill at the helm of the new government, a nationalist holds the top position in the Northern Irish Executive for the first time since Ireland’s partition in 1921. A recent CNBC report brought attention to O’Neill’s family background, which reflects her connection with Sinn Féin and IRA, with her father having been a member and later becoming a councilor for Sinn Féin. A cousin who was also a member of IRA was killed by UK Special Air Service (SAS) in 1991.
McDonald has expressed his desire for a referendum on Irish reunification within ten years, stating that it is crucial for economic growth and political stability on both sides of the border. However, both London and O’Neill’s unionist allies are not pleased with this idea and believe that day-to-day issues should be addressed rather than constitutional issues. Nevertheless, this agreement marks an important step towards resolving one of Europe’s longest-standing conflicts.