Sinn Féin is on course for its best ever local election results in Northern Ireland

Nationalist party Sinn Féin scored its best-ever local election result in Northern Ireland on Saturday in a contest widely seen as a reflection of the region’s post-Brexit political deadlock.

The pro-Irish unity party won seats in councils where it had never won before and won a wide lead over the Democratic Unionist Party, the region’s largest party in favor of Northern Ireland remaining in the United Kingdom.

Sinn Féin First Minister-in-waiting Michelle O’Neill called it a “significant election result”. By early afternoon, his company had been added 26 seats to the result achieved in the 2019 council elections, 11 councils won 124 of the 462 seats to the DUP’s 105 seats. Full results are expected to be compiled by late evening.

Smaller nationalist and unionist parties achieved great success, while the centrist Alliance Party, which rose to third place in last May’s parliamentary elections, won the third most councilors.

O’Neill called on London and Dublin – as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement that ended Northern Ireland’s three-decade conflict in 1998 – to help end the DUP’s boycott of the power-sharing executive and the Stormont assembly.

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The DUP has put policy on the region on hold since last May’s general election and attempted to further change post-Brexit trade rules, which it says will undermine Northern Ireland’s role as part of the UK.

“I think the onus is very much on both governments now,” O’Neill told BBC Northern Ireland. “I call on the two governments, as co-guarantors, to really come together. . . through the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, that the meeting be held as a matter of urgency, let’s lay out a plan. . . How will we have a reinstated executive?”.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he was “delighted that our vote has held”. Doug Beattie, leader of the small Ulster Unionist Party, said he was disappointed with the result so far.

There was no immediate reaction from London or Dublin. Earlier this year, the UK and EU agreed on the Windsor Framework to streamline trade rules.

The DUP says its position on post-Brexit trade deals has delivered important changes, but insists more is needed.

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The council election results are the latest in a series of failures for unions in Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin overtook the DUP as the region’s largest party in the Assembly last May, and Catholics already outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland, according to the latest census figures.

“This [result] it changes the landscape,” lawyer and trade union commentator Sarah Creighton told BBC Northern Ireland.