Northern Ireland

Stormont parties divided on timing of election as Sinn Féin repeats call for early poll

There is no consensus at Stormont on a date for the assembly election Rui Vieira/PA Wire.
There is no consensus at Stormont on a date for the assembly election Rui Vieira/PA Wire.

MARY Lou McDonald yesterday repeated her call for an early Stormont election in the wake of Paul Givan's resignation as first minister.

The election is scheduled for Thursday May 5 but the Sinn Féin leader believes Secretary of State Brandon Lewis should bring the date forward.

Some parties have concerns that there will not be time to pass outstanding legislation if the assembly is dissolved early, including bills on organ donation and tackling climate change.

Mrs McDonald said the assembly should "work very intensively" to deal with the outstanding bills.

"We certainly shouldn't be staggering on until May," she told RTÉ.

DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said the timing of the poll was a matter for the British government.

"But we do not fear taking our message to the public and seeking endorsement for our opposition to the Irish Sea border," he said.

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon said Mr Givan's resignation was designed to "whip people into fear and frenzy for an election".

"So why would we give the DUP exactly what they want? People want politicians at work, passing legislation to change their lives - that's what we're focused on," she said.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said important legislation was at risk if there was an early election, including her colleague Kellie Armstrong's private member's bill on integrated education.

"Whenever the election happens the Alliance Party is ready but there are bigger things at stake than simply seats in the assembly and we need to look at what will be lost if we rush into an early election," she said.

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said the assembly should deal with the outstanding legislation.

"So let’s stay the course, let’s not be distracted by those who have narrow selfish interests and instead work to complete the passage of legislation in the timeframe open to us up until the end of March," he said.