N. Ireland appoints Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill as country's first nationalist leader

Northern Ireland's parliament appointed an Irish nationalist as First Minister for the first time on Saturday, a historic milestone in a state established a century ago to ensure the dominance of pro-British unionists.

Michelle O'Neill's appointment, the delayed result of a watershed 2022 election, is the latest sign of the rise of a Sinn Fein party in the British region that has said its ultimate dream of a united Ireland is "within touching distance."

The appointment came as Sinn Fein's pro-British rival, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), formally ended a two-year boycott of the power-sharing government after this week striking a deal with the British government to ease trade frictions.

"This is an historic day which represents a new dawn," O'Neill, 47, said in her acceptance speech. "I will serve everyone equally and be a First Minister for all."

O'Neill and Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald represent a shift to a new generation of Sinn Fein politicians not directly involved in the region's decades-long bloody conflict between Irish nationalists seeking a united Ireland and pro-British unionists wanting to remain the United Kingdom.


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