Stormont looks set to be getting a lick of green paint with Sinn Féin now officially overtaking the DUP as the statelet’s premier party.
Riding on the back of demographic shift and a political crisis within unionism, the Shinners romped home with an impressive 29% ahead of an erstwhile DUP at 21%.
While the sectarian zero sum game of northern politics normally leads to little change each election season, the Sinn Féin triumph alters the apple cart of Stormont if only for psychological effect.
A major symbolic wound for mainstream unionism in the form of the DUP, the result will no doubt add fuel to the fire to the identity crisis of post-Brexit loyalism.
Flanked by moderates in the form of the UUP and Alliance the militants of the TUV saw a marked tripling of their share largely at the expense of the DUP.
Overall there appears to be a tendency of middle class liberal unionists opting for Alliance with the fortunes of Eastwood’s SDLP continuing to wane.
With a protocol-fueled storm brewing in East Belfast as evidenced by the disturbances near the Port, such a shift in loyalism spells badly for the future of that movement as the decade proceeds.
Loyalism has existed for centuries as a sort of political insurance policy for Britain, but now with Sinn Féin transformed into a generic Atlanticist liberal party working within British institutions, the necessity to keep Orangemen on the books diminishes.
No matter what, expect loyalism to slam the door on the way out and likely be used by Westminster as leverage in negotiating for a potential United Ireland.
Further down the ballot, it was a solid performance for Aontú, securing a 5% in the republican heartland of West Belfast indicating its long term place on the right Sinn Féin and potentially capitalising off the SDLP’s now certain demise.
For the radical left it was a case of business as usual with PBP holding their own despite a dip in vote share with the stickies (Workers Party) fielding 6 no hoper candidates across the board.
Experiencing near constant state harassment the left republican splinter group IRSP polled well in the two constituencies they contested in Foyle and Belfast West.
Hardly a friend of this publication, the treatment of the IRSP, in particular the closing of their banking facilities by Ulster Bank illustrates perfectly the hollowness of northern democracy for parties that cross certain ideological lines as well as a warning for those on the radical right of the spectrum.
In keeping with the great traditions of northern democracy, the Executive has been periodically immolating itself with this batch of voting marked by the quickfire resignation of Paul Givan this year.
Overall the elections should be contextualised with the fact the North is not a normal statelet with most real power vested in Westminster mandarins or various intelligence organs.
Those seeking national unity should reconcile with the fact that grouped all together there still isn’t a republican majority to enable a slim border poll mandate.
The real politics in the North transpires on the streets, within the army councils, and in the dark alleys of clandestine networks making the occasional electoral content rather pointless.
While this week represented a more absorbing election period than the usual sectarian headcount, don’t go thinking for a nanosecond that Stormont actually matters in the real running of the North.