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UK: NORTHERN IRELAND: THE NORTHERN IRELAND ELECTIONS OF JUNE 98

The Northern Ireland Elections of June 25

Though failing to decommission a single weapon (one of the preconditions of the peace deal), the IRA sticks to the peace agreement even after last week's elections in the province. But if the IRA and the other paramilitary groups do not start abandoning their arms, the Unionists will be even more sceptical of a sustained solution or a democratic new government.
The election results give the Protestants in the Northern Ireland Assembly a majority, to be sure, but it is by far not as comfortable as the population proportion suggests (two thirds to one third in favour of the Protestants).
The two major Catholic parties, the SDLP and Sinn Fein, have gained 42 seats and the two major Protestant parties, the Ulster Unionists and Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists, have won 48 seats. Among David Trimble's UUP, however, are three or four dissidents of the peace deal. Trimble will become the province's first Prime Minister and John Hume from the SDLP his deputy.
The Ulster Democratic Party, the Ulster Freedom Fighters' political wing, has not won a single seat which might result in the UFF resuming violence. Many of the 18 elected Sinn Fein candidates are former IRA terrorists which might also add to tensions at least in the assembly. The fact that the SDLP won more first-preference votes than its rival, the UUP, does not contribute to smooth coalition negotiations, either. The weeks and months ahead will be a very interesting time concerning Northern Ireland's future.




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