Under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement (GFA) the DUP would have had the responsibility of appointing the first minister. This responsibility was given to the largest party from the largest designation. This would have been the DUP as the largest unionist party.
Despite all the media attention given to Sinn Fein and talk of border polls the actual result is no change in the constitutional position. Before the election MLAs designating unionist exceeded those designating nationalist by one while after the election those designating unionists exceeded the nationalists by two.
The unionist majority remains and under the Belfast/GFA Agreement the unionist designation would have appointed the first minister.
However, as an act of political opportunism, the DUP persuaded the government to change the responsibility for appointing the first minister from the largest designation to the largest party and this was included in the St Andrew’s Agreement.
So, after this election the appointment will lie with Sinn Fein and not the DUP as it would have under the GFA.
This change has been successful as every election since 2007 the DUP campaigned on the slogan ‘Vote DUP or you will get a Sinn Fein First Minister’. this has been highly successful and despite the DUP scandals and incompetence tens of thousands of reluctant unionists have held their noses and voted DUP.
However, this time it has failed as unionists have rejected the DUP’s appeal and spread their votes among other unionist parties making Sinn Fein the single largest party. Chickens have come home to roost.
The DUP have shot themselves in the foot.
Sinn Fein will appoint the first minister even though the largest group of MLAs are unionist, and the unionists received the most votes in the election.
These facts are ignored by many commentators who are imaging a profound change in support for the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.
This is not the case. The momentous change is the support for those who designate as ‘others’ and who do not take sides on the constitutional position.
There has been a significant increase in the moderate middle ‘Alliance’ but as a former ‘other,’ a Green Party MLA, I am saddened by the temporary demise of the Green Party.
Brian Wilson, Ex Alliance councillor and Green MLA
• Other commentary:
• Ruth Dudley Edwards May 10: The nationalist vote is nowhere near enough for border poll
• Editorial May 10: If Irish language gets pledge today so must an overhaul of protocol
• Ben Lowry May 9: The TUV vote surge should have been one of the main stories of the election
• Owen Polley May 9: Unionists have an issue with sectarian SF, not with nationalism
• Emma Little Pengelly May 9: There has been no increase in the nationalist vote in 25 years
• Henry McDonald May 9: A few facts are in order amid breathless reportage about SF
• Editorial May 9: It is clear that unionists need to have option of voting for a liberal party
• Ben Lowry May 7: Unionism now faces a considerable challenge in how to go forward
• Henry McDonald May 7: 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
• Ben Lowry May 7: Unionist overall vote stays ahead of nationalist total, albeit narrowly
• Brian John Spencer: Unionism was given no wriggle room by nationalism