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Editorial: Shameful scenes at Stormont

A word used more than once yesterday to describe the DUP's actions at Stormont was 'shameful'.

The party's decision to block the election of a Speaker means the new assembly elected by more than 800,000 people just days ago effectively cannot function.

Legislation will not be passed, ministers will not be held to account, and MLAs will again not be doing the work they are being paid for.

In a crowded field of depressing days at Stormont down the years, yesterday represented a new low.

Faced with stinging criticism from other parties, the DUP said it wanted to send a "very clear message" about the need to sort out issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

In reality, the message it has sent is that people struggling to put food on the table, to pay for heating or facing years in pain waiting for hospital treatment are all secondary concerns.

And, as Alliance leader Naomi Long pointed out, it is not even possible to challenge the leader of the DUP because he has abandoned the assembly seat he was entrusted with just last week.

After yesterday's charade, which served only to send a damaging signal about political stability to potential investors around the world, attention now turns to a planned visit by Boris Johnson next week.

Despite freely agreeing to checks at the Irish Sea to recognise the unique post-Brexit position of this island, it has been reported that the British government is preparing to unilaterally act to strip away parts of the protocol it does not like.

Whether those threats become reality is anyone's guess. The prime minister's focus is very much on his own political survival and manufacturing conflict with the EU is a tried and trusted tactic.

Given past precedent, the DUP should certainly not be fooled that any announcement will be a product of pressure on its part.

What Mr Johnson should be saying next week is that just as the majority of parties who opposed Brexit have had to accept the democratic outcome of that vote, the DUP should recognise the clearly-expressed will of people in last week's election that a government should be formed.

After two years when parties were able to demonstrate the benefits of working together to respond to the challenges of the Covid pandemic, yesterday farcical events will inevitably undermine confidence in the devolved institutions and prevent practical support reaching families crying out for help.

It is time for the DUP to allow Stormont to get back to work.

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