Northern Ireland news

Late delivery of papers led to crucial executive meeting delay

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon called for an adjournment of Tuesday night's executive meeting. Picture by Peter Morrison/PA Wire

PAPERS relating to fresh Covid-19 restrictions were not given to the executive's smaller parties until 10 minutes before ministers were due to meet on Tuesday night.

The delayed arrival of the documents is understood to have heightened tensions around the executive table.

The ministers' meeting had originally been scheduled for 7.30pm but the start was delayed while negotiations took place between the DUP and Sinn Féin, with the smaller parties excluded.

The papers outlining the proposed measures that are due to be introduced tomorrow were circulated via email at approximately 9:20pm – ahead of the executive meeting convening at 9.30pm.

The meeting was then halted shortly after it began when infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon asked for an adjournment, arguing that she and some of her executive colleagues had been given insufficient time to consider what was being proposed.

Ministers reconvened after 11.30pm and agreed the fresh restrictions that were publicised yesterday.

The delay meant a scheduled sitting of the assembly was put back until yesterday morning.

Speaking in the assembly yesterday, SDLP MLA Colin McGrath, chair of the Committee for the Executive Office, said: "Judging by the hundreds of messages that I received overnight, people across the north went to bed last night not knowing if their children would be going to school today, if businesses would open or if they needed to go to work.

"The confusion over the past 24 hours has certainly not helped – we need to approach the pandemic as equal partners and do the heavy lifting in our communities together."

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Northern Ireland news