History made with decisive Sinn Féin win in Northern Ireland 

The Irish nationalist party's unprecedented win in Northern Ireland's Assembly election is being widely welcomed.

Michelle O'Neill takes a selfie with a group of politicians and supports following the Sinn Féin win in Northern Ireland
Image: Via Twitter @moneillsf

Ireland and the UK alike are still digesting the history-making Sinn Féin win at the recent Northern Irish elections, in which they secured 27 seats in the 90-seat legislature.

This means the Democratic Unionist Party, having won just 25 seats, has now been pushed out of its position of power, with many members of the LGBTQ+ rejoicing at the change in leadership.

The NXF Tweeted out that they “would like to congratulate the many progressive voices returned in #AE22, not least the 3 openly [LGBTQ+] MLA’s elected!”

“Let’s all work to ensure we make real progress on LGBT+ equality across the Island,” they wrote, “including robust Hate Crime laws & complete ban on ‘conversion practices’.”

The win by Sinn Féin means that their vice president, Michelle O’Neill, is now entitled to the role of first minister of the Northern Ireland executive, making her the first ever pro-LGBTQ+ leader to take up that position.

“The voters have spoken,” Ms O’Neill wrote on Twitter. “The democratic outcome must be respected. No party can hold back progress. It’s now time to get to work, to put money in workers and families pockets to deal with the cost of living crisis; to start to fix our health service.”

The first minister elect also noted the success seen by female candidates in this election. “Over 55% of Sinn Féin candidates elected are women, this is the first time in history for any party in the North. I’m extremely proud of these women, who have stepped forward to support workers & families, & to fix our health service.” She added, “Sinn Féin is driving forward positive change.”

Despite their majority-gaining win, because of the “delicate power-sharing politics and ongoing tussles over the legacy of Britain’s exit from the European Union”, so-called by CBS News, it remains unclear whether or not Sinn Féin will lead a new government. In order to avoid triggering a new election, a power-sharing Executive must be formed within six months but many are deeply opposed this notion, with the DUP showing signs of withdrawing from government altogether.

This comes as another win for the LGBTQ+ community, as the DUP has historically not been a friend to the queer community. Patrick Kelleher for PinkNews observes that “the DUP has been fiercely opposed to any advancement in LGBTQ+ rights” starting with “Paisley’s ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ campaign in the 1970s, which argued that homosexuality should continue to be criminalised because the Bible said it was a sin.”

“Many of the party’s representatives continue to speak out against advancements in LGBTQ+ rights,” Kelleher writes, “with conversion therapy becoming a sticking point for some MLAs and MPs.”

The win by Sinn Féin, however, gives hope to members of the LGBTQ+ community, having formally shown support for marriage equality and Trans rights in its recent political history, with Mary Lou McDonald even speaking out against the UK’s subpar Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

“Many congratulations to [Michelle O’Neill] and [Mary Lou McDonald] on a truly historic result for Sinn Féin,” Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party and LGBTQ+ advocate, wrote on Twitter.

“I wish Michelle & her colleagues – & all Northern Ireland’s elected representatives – the very best for what comes next & hope to see the NI government functioning again soon.”

© 2022 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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