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'Pray for reconciliation,' says church leader as Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein and DUP struggle to form Executive

by Kelly Valencia

A Northern Irish church leader is urging people to pray for reconciliation in Northern Ireland as the country's main parties struggle to form a power-sharing Executive.

It's as last week's elections saw nationalist party Sinn Fein emerge as the largest in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the first time in a century. 

The party said their victory represents the beginning of a 'new era in politics' after it won 27 out of the 90 seats in Stormont during last week's elections - with the DUP taking second place. 

"We would ask people to pray prayers of reconciliation, David Smyth, head of the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland, told Premier.

"Not in a naive way. These are difficult issues, people hold legitimate constitutional loyalties. That's fine. But we want to see people working together despite their deepest differences for the collective good of the people who call this place home." 

Sinn Fein's victory means vice president Michelle O'Neill will become Northern Ireland's First Minister. However, for the Assembly to sit again the DUP needs to agree to power-sharing the Executive and nominate a Deputy Prime Minister.

But DUP's leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said he will not re-enter the Executive without "decisive action" from the UK Government on the Northern Ireland Protocol. 

For Smyth, Northern Ireland is in urgent need of a stable local government. 

"We've had, unfortunately, almost a decade of unsettled governance in Northern Ireland, with gaps of up to three years with no Assembly. So, unfortunately, we're used to it in some ways, but that doesn't mean is acceptable or good enough. 

"We want good local governance and coming out of a pandemic, coming out of over three years of no government, before the pandemic, we desperately need stability, to deal with issues like health education, infrastructure, and you know, the cost of energy and the cost of living," he added.  

Sinn Fein has said post-Brexit legislation can't be used to "hold the people of Northern Ireland to ransom" and has urged the DUP and the UK government to "accept and respect" the democratic result of the Northern Ireland Assembly elections. 

When formed, the Assembly will be the seventh since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

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