The prospect of the first Nationalist premier at Stormont is an “almost moving moment”, according to Sinn Fein chairwoman Mary Lou McDonald.
he was speaking after a historic election result saw his party become the first Nationalist or Republican party to lead the poll in Stormont.
Sinn Fein finished with 27 seats, ahead of the DUP which fell from 28 to 25 seats.
The Alliance party, in the center of the field, saw its vote increase to finish as the third largest party in Stormont with 17 seats.
The new party order means Sinn Fein has the right to nominate the next prime minister.
However, under Assembly rules, the DUP, as the second largest party, must nominate a Deputy Prime Minister for the joint office of Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill to become Prime Minister.
Ms McDonald described the significance of the moment as “not really around Sinn Fein”.
“It’s more the fact that in the north, and bear in mind the state at partition a century ago, the northern state was created to secure a perpetual integrated unionist majority in order to ensure that no one like Michelle O’Neill would ever be prime minister,” she told RTE on Sunday.
“And over the weekend, that glass ceiling was shattered.
“We have… I would almost describe an emotional response from nationalists living in the north, especially older citizens, because they understand, having lived through the worst days, the importance of this development.
“But I think for everyone, across the north, across Ireland, this should be celebrated as a moment of equality. A huge expression of how far the country’s highest office has come. is no longer within anyone’s reach and is no one’s prerogative or preserve, and I think that’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Ahead of the election, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson did not confirm whether he would appoint a deputy prime minister in the event of Sinn Fein becoming premier.
The DUP is demanding action from the UK government on the Northern Ireland protocol before entering a new executive.
Ms McDonald said there “must be an executive” to respond to the cost of living crisis and reform the health service.
“The idea that there was anybody, any political party, the DUP or anybody else, would just stay away or create a delay, and tell the people that they have to suffer and they have to wait and wait for the executive to give them just a little leeway, is totally unacceptable and I think that would cause widespread consternation,” she said.
“So what has to happen is everybody has to go back to work. Michelle O’Neill will lead our team to the assembly tomorrow, the new team of MPs will register and we are ready, ready to get the job done.
“And what has to happen is the appointment of a prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the president, and we have to frankly take action.
“The question of the protocol is clearly the one that worries part of the union opinion. It’s not the driving issue.”