Northern Ireland is becoming more Irish as the grip of unionism fades

The DUP's Gordon Lyons MLA and leader Jeffrey Donaldson last week. Photo: Brian Lawless

Sam McBride

The utter dominance of unionism in Northern Ireland’s first half century can be conveyed in three facts: in that period the Unionist Party never won less than 60pc of Stormont seats; in one election more than half of Stormont MPs were elected unopposed, and when Ian Paisley challenged the then prime minister of Northern Ireland, Terence O’Neill, in 1969, it was the first time that O’Neill had been opposed in his 22-year political career.