Hard-liners Lead in Northern Ireland Poll | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 28.11.2003
  1. Inhalt
  2. Navigation
  3. Weitere Inhalte
  4. Metanavigation
  5. Suche
  6. Choose from 30 Languages


Hard-liners Lead in Northern Ireland Poll

The future of home rule for Northern Ireland remained in doubt on Friday as hard-line Protestant and Catholic parties took the lead after the first day of vote counting in the troubled British province.


The path to restoring rule at Stormont, the Nothern Ireland Assembly, remains filled with obstacles.

With less than half of the 108 seats for the Northern Ireland Assembly determined, the uncompromising Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was ahead with 20 seats. The moderate Ulster Unionist Party had secured only 12 seats. Sinn Fein led the nationalist camp with 13 seats.

“The DUP, in terms of percentage votes and the overall number of votes, now speaks for the unionist community and now speaks for more people in the province than any other party,” said Nigel Dodds, a member of the DUP, the protestant party that wants Northern Ireland to remain part of the U.K.

Northern Ireland went to the polls on Wednesday, but the province’s system of proportional representation lets voters pick several candidates in order of preference in constituencies made up of six seats, so final results will not be finished until late Friday.

The gains made by the DUP and Sinn Fein at the expense of more moderate parties could spell trouble for the 1998 Good Friday agreement, which has brought relative peace to a province that has long suffered from sectarian violence between pro-British Protestants and nationalist Catholics who want closer ties to Ireland.

London rule

Northern Ireland has been ruled by the British government from London for more than a year, ever since joint home rule by Protestants and Catholics broke down amidst charges of spying by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

But the gains by the DUP, led by the extremist Protestant preacher Ian Paisley, mean London is unlikely to return authority to the assembly any time soon. Paisley has called the Good Friday Agreement an “abomination” and refused to deal with Sinn Fein, which is seen as the political wing of the IRA.

“We are diametrically opposed on many political levels,” former IRA member Gerry Kelly told Reuters after being elected for Sinn Fein in North Belfast. “However this nonsense from the DUP that they will not talk to anyone flies in the face of reality.”

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was to meet his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern on Friday as the voting continued to discuss how to proceed with the peace process after the election. However, with even the more moderate unionists refusing to work with Sinn Fein until the IRA agrees to completely disarm, achieving progress will remain difficult.

DW recommends