After a two-year impasse, Northern Ireland has finally resolved its conflict, paving the way for a new chapter in a century-old struggle. On February 1st, Michelle O’Neill from the nationalist Sinn Féin party was appointed as the new head of government in Northern Ireland. As a party that advocates for Irish reunification, Sinn Féin has been at the center of this longstanding conflict. Despite receiving the most votes in the May 2022 election, they were unable to form a government due to opposition from unionist parties and boycotts from groups like the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
However, with O’Neill leading the new government, there is hope for change. The recent CNBC report brought attention to O’Neill’s family background and her connections to both Sinn Féin and the IRA. Her father was once a member of IRA and later became a councilor for Sinn Féin. A cousin who was also an IRA member was killed by UK’s Special Air Service (SAS) in 1991. This history has brought up questions about whether or not reunification is possible and how it would affect Northern Ireland.
McDonald stated that he believes that there should be a referendum on Irish reunification within ten years. He passionately believes that this is the best outcome for the economy, society, and politics and would allow Ireland to play a bigger role in global affairs. However, both the British government and unionist allies are opposed to this idea. They believe that focusing on day-to-day issues is more important than constitutional ones at this time.
The agreement reached between parties led to an influx of £3 billion pounds from Britain into public services in Northern Ireland which could help resolve some of these issues. With O’Neill now leading the way forward, it remains to be seen what direction Northern Ireland will take next in its ongoing struggle for unity and reconciliation with its past conflicts