Northern Ireland votes

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Northern Ireland, the part of the island of Ireland which remained in the United Kingdom after the 1922 partition, held an election for its assembly earlier this week and the results are in. The Democratic Unionist Party won the most seats, followed by Sinn Fein. The last time we traveled to Northern Ireland, in 1995, these two parties were the also-rans, the hard-liners for their respective views -- unionist (Northern Ireland should remain a part of the UK) and republican (the Six Counties should be reunited with the Republic of Ireland). The DUP was and is led by its founder, Ian Paisley, who is also founder of his own Presbyterian denomination. But for the DUP's hard-line unionist views, it has never been allied with a terrorist group. Sinn Fein has. Sinn Fein is the political wing of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, which has engaged in terror attacks on civilians and police officers and in Mafia-like organized crime within its own community.

The more conciliatory expressions of unionist and republican views, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Social Democratic and Labour Party, respectively, have fallen from favor with the electorate. David Trimble and John Hume, the leaders of the two parties, won the Nobel Peace Prize, but the agreement that won them that honor has not lived up to its promise.

Six members of the assembly are elected from each parliamentary constituency, using the "single transferable vote" method. This is similar to instant runoff voting in that each voter ranks the candidates in order of preference. The difference is that the counting in a way that elects multiple candidates, rather than a single candidate. I had hoped to point you to results that shows the count as it progresses, but I can't find that the detailed results on the web anywhere. The BBC has the final results and the first preference counts (how many voters chose a candidate as first choice), but not the detailed count-by-count results. This is a good method for picking representatives when you have widely divergent views mixed together in a single region. It ensures that widely-held perspectives have a seat at the table, but it allows the voters to choose which individual candidates will represent them, rather than leaving the pick to party bosses (as the party-list system of proportional representation does).

Under the rules for the Northern Ireland Assembly established by the British Parliament, the head of the first place party will be First Minister of Northern Ireland, while the head of the second place party will be his Deputy. The two leaders -- Ian Paisley of the DUP and Martin McGuinness of SF -- will have to come to agreement over which assembly member will fill each cabinet position. This is likely to work as well as that movie in which Ray Milland's head is grafted on to Rosey Grier's body.

The alternative to successfully forming a government? Control over local matters will continue to be wielded by a Minister for Northern Ireland handpicked by Tony Blair.

(I should have many more links, but I'm in a bit of a rush. Check Wikipedia to learn more.)

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1 Comments

Pamela said:

This situation needs prayer. There is a gal from Ireland that came here to the US right before the elections. She is a part of the church that I attend. The Sunday prior to the elections she asked us to pray for them. She was still in the country yesterday.

Over the weekend she spoke at a women's meeting. She had a Q&A session. One lady asked her about the elections and what they meant for the nation. She said that although the Democratic Unionist party won the government is still at a stalemate. As their policy they refuse to have any contacts with terrorists. Sinn Fein is the political wing of a terrorist organization as I'm sure everyone knows. Since the winning party will not speak with terrorists at this point there will not be a way to form the new government.

She and many are praying for a true move of God's spirit over there. That is the only answer for this, that is, changed hearts.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 9, 2007 8:16 AM.

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