THE DEMOCRATIC Unionist Party (DUP) has confirmed that it will not support the election of a Speaker in the Assembly today, effectively blocking the creation of an executive.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the party's leader, said they would refuse to nominate a speaker when the assembly meets for its inaugural session this afternoon.
The party had been expected to block the appointment of a first and deputy first minister in the power-sharing executive but in a statement early on Friday it announced it would also pull the plug on the assembly to further pressure the UK government to take “decisive action” on the protocol.
"In October 2019, Colum Eastwood said the election of a Speaker without the prospect of a functioning Executive would 'lead only to the fundamental destruction of the Good Friday Agreement,'" he said.
"It is disappointing the SDLP leader alongside the other pro-Protocol parties have been happy to support such a fundamental destruction of powersharing through the abandonment of the principle of consent and cross-community consensus.
"Unionist concerns over the Northern Ireland Protocol are not merely some political squabble which is impacting upon Stormont. The Protocol is a direct challenge to the principles that have underpinned every agreement reached in Northern Ireland over the last 25 years. It erodes the very foundations that devolution has been built upon."
Donaldson said the "economic and political damage to Northern Ireland we see now is merely the tip of the iceberg and will only increase significantly as time moves on."
"Some parties who just a few months ago were mocking the promise of decisive action from the DUP in relation to the Protocol are the very same parties now feigning surprise and outrage at a political party keeping its promise to the electorate."
Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill tweeted this morning to say that "today is the day we should be forming an Executive to put money in people's pockets and to start to fix our health service."
"The DUP have confirmed they will punish the public and not turn up. They are disgracefully holding the public to ransom for their Brexit mess. Shameful."
Today is the day we should be forming an Executive to put money in peoples pockets and to start to fix our health service. The DUP have confirmed they will punish the public and not turn up. They are disgracefully holding the public to ransom for their Brexit mess. Shameful.
— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) May 13, 2022
The DUP hopes the move will embolden Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to progress down the path of unilateral action in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol.