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In a first, Irish nationalists overtake unionists at UK election

Canvassing for the Sinn Fein candidate in North Belfast John Finucane, in Belfast, Northern Ireland December 7, 2019. Picture taken December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Lorraine O'Sullivan

BELFAST (Reuters) - Northern Ireland elected more Irish nationalists to Britain’s parliament than pro-British unionists for the first time on Friday, after the largest nationalist party Sinn Fein narrowly won the final of the region’s 18 seats.

That meant Sinn Fein kept its seven seats and the resurgent fellow pro-Irish SDLP won two, combining to pass the Democratic Unionist Party, which fell from 10 seats to eight. The cross-community Alliance Party took the final seat, adding to the majority of anti-Brexit MPs after its share of the total vote rocketed by almost 10%.

A first since the partition of Ireland in 1921, the result led to increased calls from Sinn Fein for a vote to split from the rest of the United Kingdom, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a resounding majority across the union.

Reporting by Ian Graham, editing by Padraic Halpin and Jon Boyle