Northern Ireland Assembly to sit in fresh bid to elect speaker

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has labelled the move a ‘stunt’ by Sinn Féin
Northern Ireland Assembly to sit in fresh bid to elect speaker

By Dominic McGrath, PA

The Northern Ireland Assembly will meet on Monday at Stormont in a fresh bid to nominate a speaker after more than 30 MLAs signed a recall petition.

Following a motion from Sinn Féin, outgoing speaker Alex Maskey told MLAs that the purpose of Monday’s recall will be to elect a speaker, deputy speakers and to appoint a first minister and deputy first minister.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has labelled the move a “stunt” by Sinn Féin, which emerged as the largest party in the Assembly election earlier this month.

 

Jeffrey Donaldson’s party has so far blocked the election of a speaker and the formation of an executive following the Assembly elections, as part of its protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

On Sunday, Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey denied that the return to Stormont was a stunt.

“It is not time-wasting. We were elected to sit in Stormont, to make legislation and to protect people within our communities,” Ms Hargey said.

“Our role as elected leaders is to work on behalf of those who elected us, to work on behalf of communities. We have been hearing the struggle, people are crying out for help.”

DUP East Antrim MLA Gordon Lyons hit out at the move by Sinn Féin, but insisted that the decision to block the Assembly from sitting was contributing to progress against the protocol.

 

“Sinn Féin know this recall will not change anything. The problem is the protocol,” Mr Lyons said.

“We don’t want to be in this position but we have made more progress in two weeks than we made in the previous two years.

“It’s unfortunate that it has taken this step to bring the matter to a head.”

The DUP also faced criticism last week, after concerns were raised that the absence of an executive will prevent a UK-wide £400 (€470) discount on energy bills going to Northern Irish households.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the DUP should do the “right thing” and support the nomination of a speaker.

The Foyle MP said: “Their decision to stop the Assembly from sitting has left us powerless to get support to people dealing with the costs crisis.”

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