So the Irish Occupied Six Counties (OSC) elections are past. The conclusions are drawn and new strategies formulated, the parties working feverishly in putting their spin on the results.
The DUP are the biggest losers. They are desperately attempting to hold it together in face of a damning reprimand from within Unionism now tired of the constant shadows of both scandal and incompetence that seem to follow the (barely) largest party wherever it ventures.
Mike Nesbitt has fallen upon his own sword. His tactic of cross-community voting, whilst admirable, was foolhardy and naive. Such a gambit clearly demonstrated Nesbitt’s disconnect from the majority of his demographic. He did not succeed because, put bluntly, Unionism en-masse is not yet ready to embrace equality and (that most delightful of phrases) parity of esteem.
The Alliance party did well. They provided a refuge for those moderate Unionists unable to find succour elsewhere. The growth and strength of the Alliance party will be seen to correspond closely with the inclination among Unionists to treat their Nationalist and/or Catholic neighbours with long overdue respect.
The SDLP barely get a mention. They have become a virtual nonentity, shivering in the shadow of their bigger relative. There appears to be no way back for the party of Hume. Unless there are major unforeseen developments in the near future, then the SDLP will dwindle into obscurity.
Sinn Féin, the largest constitutional Nationalist party, are riding the crest of an electoral wave. Their spin merchants have attributed their success at the ballot to their strategizing. Observers, however, would credit the rise in votes for the party to the behaviour of the DUP, and most especially Arlene Foster.
Yet, although those Sinn Féin votes were based upon a negative, they still count. Those votes belong to people who are angry at the corruption and incompetence of Stormont, personified in the DUP. They are angry at the continuing failure to achieve equality. They are angry at the blatant thumbing of the DUP nose towards its Nationalist neighbours.
Stormont will restart, eventually, and as with the aftermath of any dispute, there will be a period of relative calm as the protagonists take each other’s measure anew. Sinn Féin has the momentum and increased mandate. But what happens when they fail to deliver upon their promises to those who elected them?
Should, and when, Michelle O’Neill et. al again encounter Unionist intransigence and arrogance, and when Stormont again falls at a Unionist built hurdle, how will Sinn Féin explain that to their electorate? What will the inevitable backlash mean for a once proud Republican party that has repeatedly compromised its principles to gain fickle power within a corrupt and broken colonial system?
The sad truth is that Stormont has always been doomed because Unionists are not ready to descend into equality with Nationalism. Until they are, or, until a conscientious British government forces them into full compliance with normal standards of social and political decency, we will continue to witness a lame colonial executive limp from one crisis to the next, while we all pay.