Northern Ireland set to vote in election poised to make history

Voters in Northern Ireland are set to go to the polls on Thursday in an election that could make history.

This is because Sinn Féin, an Irish nationalist party that supports the reunification of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland, is widely predicted to secure the majority of the votes and as such become entitled to the post of first minister.

It would be the first time in the history of the state that a nationalist has held this role instead of Unionist politicians, who favour Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland was created in 1921, designed to have a permanent Unionist majority.

However, the majority has been on the decline for decades, and the two main unionist parties saw significant losses in the 2017 election.

This is partly due to changing demographics.

The results of the 2021 census due later this year are expected to show that the proportion of the population coming from a Catholic background, from whom Irish nationalist parties draw most of their support, is now larger than those from a Protestant background.