The result of the British general election may be the gravest for the future of the Union since the nationalist landslide that led to Ireland’s secession in 1918.
For the first time in its history, Northern Ireland has elected more Irish-identifying nationalists than pro-British unionists. Across the water, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has demanded an independence referendum after winning a nationalist landslide.
“Brexit is unionism’s biggest-ever own goal, and the outcome may be the end of the United Kingdom,” former Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said as he digested the results.
In a repeat of the Brexit referendum, the results in England and Wales diverge strongly from Remain-voting Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Brexit heartlands have delivered the biggest mandate in a generation to a Conservative leader who looks close to a caricature of an English Tory toff, and whose appeal does not carry far north of Hadrian’s Wall.
Here are the key takeaways of an election that reveals a disunited kingdom:
1. ‘Demography was against us’
For the first time in history, unionists do not hold a majority of Northern Ireland’s 18 Westminster seats: The Democratic Unionist Party won eight, down from 10; Nationalist parties — Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic and Labour Party — won nine between them; The cross-community Alliance Party took one.
“The demography just wasn’t there. We worked very very hard to get the vote out … but the demography was against us” — Arlene Foster, DUP leader
It’s a deeply symbolic result for a jurisdiction that relies on a unionist majority for its existence.
Northern Ireland was carved out of the old Irish province of Ulster a century ago as a home for the two-thirds majority within it who still supported a union with Britain.