Predictably, the election result has been wrongly reported across the UK and wider as a lurch towards Irish nationalism. There are some key things about this Stormont election to note.
The DUP went into this vote on 27 (having lost Alex Easton during the last term to independent and he got re-elected as such) and came out with two seats down.
That is a two seat difference. This needs to be put into perspective. The hysteria and misinterpretation is unwarranted. This is not a signal of constitutional change.
The nationalist share of the first preference vote in 1998 – SDLP and Sinn Fein – was 39.9%. The nationalist vote in 2022 – SDLP and Sinn Fein – 39.4%
No change in the Irish unity vote in Northern Ireland in almost 25 years. This is a failure of nationalism. Indeed, the nationalist designation lost more seats in this election than those of a unionist designation.
The centre vote is a vote for people who are content with the status quo. Voters who do not wish to agitate for constitutional change. This is the very opposite of nationalism. The centre has consolidated. Most of their growth came from other middle ground parties – taking four from the SDLP, one from UUP and both Green Party seats.
In 1998, UUP and DUP was 39.4%. The unionist share of the vote in 2022 — DUP, TUV and UUP and others — was 42%.
Make no mistake though, the fractured vote cost seats, allowing Alliance to use the opportunity to come through the centre of the split. Lack of transfers back from unionists to the DUP in North Antrim, lost the seat to Alliance. Likewise in Strangford, the DUP and TUV had enough votes for a fourth unionist seat, yet it was lost. A house divided against itself will fall. We must work better together, in the interests of our Union and against those who wish to abolish this place that we cherish and remove us from the UK.
We have a strong and positive case to make, and a valuable constitutional position to protect. Let us work together, not pull ourselves apart.
Emma Little Pengelly, Former DUP MP & barrister, Belfast BT6
• Owen Polley: Unionists have an issue with sectarian SF, not with nationalism
• Editorial May 9: It is clear that unionists need to have option of voting for a liberal party
• Brian John Spencer: Unionism was given no wriggle room by nationalism
• Henry McDonald: Sinn Fein’s day in the sun but no new dawn for Irish unity
• Editorial May 7: Unionism more than ever needs London’s help on the protocol