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Stormont Assembly fails to elect new speaker

The DUP must back the election of a new speaker to allow the Assembly to fully function. Picture by Mal McCann
Jonathan McCambridge, Rebecca Black and Dominic McGrath, PA

The Stormont Assembly has failed to elect a new speaker.

The two nominations for the role, the Ulster Unionists’ Mike Nesbitt and the SDLP’s Patsy McGlone, failed to secure the necessary cross-community support from MLAs.

The DUP has refused to back the election of a speaker as part of its protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The plenary session of the Assembly was then suspended as business cannot be carried out without a speaker.

MLAs were in the chamber today following a recall petition brought by Sinn Féin to elect a speaker, deputy speakers and to appoint a first minister and deputy first minister.

The DUP must back the election of a new speaker to allow the Assembly to fully function.

However it is resisting, saying they want to see action from the UK government on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill said people in Northern Ireland want action, not protest.

Ms O’Neill told the chamber: “The people have spoken and they want action, not protest.

“They want the parties and every single MLA elected to this democratic institution to get their sleeves rolled up and to get down to business.”

She added: “The DUP’s stand-off is with the public and not with the European Union.

“As I stand here today I am ready to work with others.”

Two MLAs, Mike Nesbitt of the Ulster Unionist Party and Patsy McGlone of the SDLP, were nominated for the role of speaker.

However, DUP MLA Paul Givan described recall as not a “serious attempt” to restore powersharing.

He told MLAs: “Today’s recall is another attempt at majority rule and has no credibility when it comes forward from the party that kept these institutions down for three years.

“The public will see the hypocrisy for what it is from Sinn Féin.

“This isn’t a serious attempt to restore the principles of powersharing and these institutions. It is a stunt.”

Alliance Party MLA Nuala McAllister said a restored Assembly at Stormont could begin to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

She told MLAs: “There is much that can be done by an executive to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

“At the heart of this cost-of-living crisis is our Government’s failure to act and that is something that we all take responsibility for.

“But we are ready to take decisions to alleviate those stresses and give people who have been voiceless for so long hope.

“Those of us who want to get on with the job are more than desperate to do so.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler said his party wanted all-party talks to begin on a programme for government.

He told the recalled Assembly: “The UUP have written today to the head of the civil service to contravene all-party talks to establish a programme for government and the minister for finance to reopen the public consultation on the budget.

“These are measures which should be done now to restore the confidence of the people of Northern Ireland that we all purport to serve.”

SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole said that the number of MLAs who support the Northern Ireland Protocol had increased in the recent Assembly election.

He asked MLAs: “Why is the DUP holding the people of Northern Ireland to hostage?

“They say it is all about the (Northern Ireland) Protocol.

“The protocol is an international treaty signed between the UK and the European Union.

“The number of MLAs who support the protocol went up in the last election.”

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

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

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