Ireland: Left-Wing Sinn Fein Make History in Best Ever Election

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The race is on to save the Northern Ireland settlement.

The parties have three weeks to reach an agreement and if a government can not be form within that time another election will be called.

"That is to say that Sinn Fein - which now is absolutely hegemonic in the nationalist community - must begin to make inroads towards the younger generation of the unionist community".

Just 1,168 votes separated the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin and for the first time Unionists will not hold a majority vote at Stormont.

It had been instigated by First Minister Arlene Foster, head of the DUP, when she was economy minister.

The DUP maintained the top spot, despite their vote share falling as the Sinn Fein share surged.

The U.K. may have to reimpose direct rule on the region if the two biggest parties can not agree to enter government together again.

Northern Ireland minister James Brokenshire said that British troops must not be "unfairly treated" in any investigation into the deaths.

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If no deal is struck within three weeks, Mr Brokenshire must either order new elections or return direct rule to Westminster for the first time in a decade.

Nationalists who favor a united Ireland and unionists who want Northern Ireland to remain British are jostling for position ahead of talks on Britain's exit from the European Union, which is set to determine the province's political and economic future.

In the Brexit referendum, Northern Ireland voted by 55 percent for the UK to remain in the bloc, but across the entire kingdom, 52 percent voted to leave.

After her re-election, the DUP's outgoing first minister Arlene Foster said: "Let us now move forward with hope, hope that civility can return to our politics". Following last week's election, unionist parties lost their absolute majority for the first time since partition in 1921. "Given their election result they've no reason to do so".

"I am pleased that the DUP has come out as the largest party in terms of votes".

The DUP won 28 seats in Northern Ireland's semi-autonomous 90-seat assembly in Thursday's election, while Sinn Fein garnered 27 seats.

Because of the power-sharing arrangement in Northern Ireland, the precise balance of parliamentary power is not very important. Unionists, having partnered republicans in government for years, need to reflect on the circumstances which lead to the election and the catastrophic result for unionism as a political philosophy.