Michelle O'Neill became Northern Ireland's first minister Saturday, the first Irish nationalist to hold the position in the nearly 26-year history of the institution. Due to an extended government boycott from the opposition, she assumes power two years after her Sinn Fein party won elections and the right to name the first minister.
Northern Ireland and its six historically Protestant counties remained a part of the United Kingdom when the rest of the island—roughly 80%—became the independent, majority-Catholic Irish Free State (later renamed Republic of Ireland) in 1921. Tensions in the north between British unionists and nationalists seeking Irish unification gave rise to a decadeslong period of violence known as the Troubles, where roughly 3,600 people were killed.
The 1998 Good Friday Agreement established a power-sharing structure requiring members of both sides to hold coequal executive roles of first minister and deputy first minister. Learn more about Northern Ireland here.
O'Neill will share power with the Democratic Unionist Party's Emma Little-Pengelly, the first time women will hold both positions.