Plans for assembly election expected today after deadline for restoration passes

Plans for assembly election expected today after deadline for restoration passes

PLANS FOR an a new assembly election in Northern Ireland are expected to be announced after politicians yesterday failed to restore a devolved government before the deadline expired at one minute past midnight.

Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, now must call an election to be held within 12 weeks.

He is expected to lay out plans for the election later today, with 15 December being the likely date it takes place.

Yesterday MLAs failed to elect an assembly speaker, effectively preventing any other business from being conducted, including the election of a First and Deputy First Minister.

The Democratic Unionist Party has refused to enter power-sharing until its issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol are addressed.

They argues that the protocol undermines Northern Ireland's position within the UK.

Diane Dodds MLA for Upper Bann said that the recalling of the assembly by Sinn Féin yesterday was "a stunt rather than any serious attempt to restore powersharing"

"If those who petitioned the Assembly sitting truly wanted to restore fully functioning devolved government, they would have joined us in campaigning for the Protocol to be replaced by arrangements that unionists can support."

She also said that devolution "can only flourish when there is a solid foundation with cross-community support."

"We want to see fully functioning devolved government restored in Stormont but that can only happen when the Protocol is replaced by arrangements that unionists can support.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had urged the DUP to return to Stormont.

His official spokesman said: "The people of Northern Ireland deserve a fully functioning and locally-elected executive which can respond to the issues facing the communities there."

Irish Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar described the situation as regrettable, urging all parties, particularly the DUP, to "honour their mandate".

Sinn Féin assembly member Conor Murphy said the the DUP would represent a "minority view" after an election.

"The majority of people, the majority of parties, the majority of MLAs elected want the institutions to work," said the former finance minister.

Eóin Tennyson of the Alliance Party said reform of Stormont was needed to prevent "stop-start devolution".

"Jeffrey Donaldson is claiming that he is somehow influencing the UK government or the EU - he's not," said the assembly member.

"He's simply punishing people in communities here."