We have a different Stormont. It is frustrating to see the interpretation of AE17 results being framed in terms of a victory for nationalism and a blow to unionism.
What if the real victor here was liberal progressive politics? The perceived blow to unionism was not necessarily a blow to unionism—it was perhaps more a blow to the backward-looking, archaic attitudes and policies of the DUP.
The perceived win for nationalism was a perhaps actually a win for liberal progressive inclusive politics…not because Sinn Fein is the best party to deliver that, but because when combined with the unique constitutional-based politics we have in Northern Ireland, people have to vote tactically. Tactics using transfers were very well used to support the middle ground and progressive small parties. There can be no doubt that many voted for Sinn Fein because it was probably going to be the best chance of challenging the DUP’s regressive politics, not because those voters are necessarily keen on forwarding a ‘radical republican agenda’.
The votes cast in this election were an experiment for many. More people came out to vote than have voted for a long time. They voted differently. Their votes should not be taken for granted for any future elections. A lot hinges on how the parties conduct themselves during this Assembly.
The political landscape has shifted – not as great a shift as many would have liked – but it has shifted to a position where no one party has a veto. This is groundbreaking!
Let’s hope progressive politics can seize the opportunity…