Building a bigger tent should still be a priority for Nationalism

Nationalism stands strong in the new Assembly with more seats, more votes and is now in a position to deliver more.

I watched from the Titanic Count Centre on Friday, victory after victory for the Nationalist parties. Sinn Fein’s tsunami started in West Belfast and swept the province leaving opponents from People Before Profit to the UUP reeling. The SDLP also had some resilience and managed to gain a seat in Lagan Valley and came close to winning another in Strangford.

Both parties had a very good day at the office and it was a refreshing change of pace to explain a rising Nationalist tide, rather than a falling one.

So, now Sinn Fein in particular as the leaders of Nationalism have the mandate what are they going to do with it?

There are some key outstanding issues on legacy and the Irish Language Act that need to be addressed, there is also the position of Arlene Foster in the short term.

How you get a resolution to these issues will no doubt be teased out in the coming talks process that we are set to enter.

However, there is a more fundamental issue that should be addressed and is how Nationalism conducts itself from this point on.

Being in a position of electoral strength gives you two options in politics, you can be magnanimous and reach out or you can hunker down and ignore critics plus those who are outside the fold.

Now that Nationalism is now on a near parity with Unionism in the Assembly, it is critical that the same mistakes are not repeated.

There must be an open approach towards the future and an attempt to reach out beyond a comfort zone, building on some the work already done by Martin McGuinness and John Hume.

There should rightly be happiness, but no triumphalism. For those voters who did not opt for a Nationalist candidate, they must be shown that whilst there will be disagreements, there is respect for their choice and at all times they will be heard.

Also there should be a huge degree of pride in where Nationalism has come in such a short period of time but also a desire for consolidation combined with a hunger for more.

If Nationalists can win in Lagan Valley and be competitive in Strangford then there is room for growth, particularly in the 2019 Local Elections.

Both the SDLP and Sinn Fein should remember, Arlene Foster’s approach played a huge role in delivering this victory and that approach cannot be replicated by either party.

If others choose to go down a narrow path, that’s a matter for them but I know neither party will win a race to the bottom with reactionary elements of other parties.

The hard work starts here for both parties and the Nationalist tent is a lot bigger today than it was on Thursday.

I have no doubt there is room for more people and this coalition has many people who can join it in the months ahead.

Both parties have made a good start in this endeavour and only by following this approach and recognising that this is an Assembly of minorities can a winning coalition be built for the future.

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs