The snap election in the North following the scandal over the DUP's controversial failed (but very costly) heating scheme has just resulted in a very interesting new political landscape for the North. The main result is that the nationalist vote in the North has made huge strides forward and that the leading unionist party, the DUP, was the main loser in the election.
Despite traditionally being the leading political party in the North, the DUP now has just one seat more than Sinn Féin. The next biggest party is another nationalist grouping, the SDLP, who even though they are traditionally antagonistic towards Sinn Féin does suggest that in this particula election that the nationalist parties have not only grown in size but have been far more effectively been able to get their vote out and make more of an impact.
Again, another big result of the elections is that now the DUP is one vote short of the all important 30 members in the Assembly which means that it effectively will not be able to automatically veto, as it has always done, issues such as gay marriage and abortion rights. The North has always been significantly different to the rest of the United Kingdom in terms of it's social policy and has traditionally been seen to be far more conservative than the rest of the country, but now that with the results of this new election seems set for change. It will be a major change for gay people who will, in common with other gay people in their own country and in common with gay people south of the border, now be able to be married. It is strange to think that it has taken this long for it to happen considering that the mainland U.K. was one of the first places in the world to introduce civil partnership and gay marriage.
While people do still traditionally vote along religious lines in the North, there does seem to be some shift towards voting for issues based politics and one of the most telling quotes following the results of this election comes from the North's Sinn Féin leader Michelle O'Neil who said that the result 'was a vote for equality'. But this is still the North and politics as 'normal' will no doubt return very quickly and if devolved rule is still to work there the two main political parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, will have to work out a deal between them very soon.
No doubt there will be a lot of jockeying for position but the leader of the DUP Arlene Foster doesn't have the whip hand that she once had and it will take a more sophisticated approach from her than usual if the DUP is not to go on losing more and more support.
One of the clearest messages from this election is that Sinn Féin can organise it's vote and make it work spectacularly well for it. How long before Sinn Féin is the main Northern party leaving the DUP in the ha'penny place?