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Sinn Fein set to become NI’s largest political party… by doing nothing

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Just 250 days until Michelle O’Neill becomes Sinn Fein First Minister of Northern Ireland. That’s the unmistakeable forecast from the latest Belfast Telegraph/Lucid Talk poll. Barring a dramatic change in political fortunes, Sinn Fein seems set to become the largest party in a polity it does not want to exist.

O’Neill was 21 years old when she voted in the first Assembly election, more than 23 years ago. As Sinn Fein trailed in fourth place, could she have ever envisaged leading a republican party to become the biggest in the North?

It would have taken a fertile imagination. But this likely success has been coming for some time. Republican poll ratings have remained consistently high in Northern Ireland. South of the border, Sinn Fein led on first preference votes at the last election, and on current polling evidence will extend that lead at the next.

As the Storey funeral furore slowly faded, Sinn Fein managed to avoid major controversy over the last year. The party outmanoeuvred the DUP — not always a complex operation — in securing a commitment from the Secretary of State to introduce Irish language provision later this year.

Joining the cross-party opposition to an amnesty did no harm either, even though any future prosecutions of former IRA personnel will no doubt elicit protest. The Derry decommissioning of some party stalwarts appears to have had no negative effects.

Sinn Fein does not now need to do........

© Belfast Telegraph

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