Saturday, November 26, 2022

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson confirms DUP will not nominate NI Assembly speaker as other Stormont parties slam decision

Stormont’s other four major parties have slammed the DUP for refusing to back a new Assembly Speaker today.

he DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson confirmed his party will not move forward without changes on the protocol.

Without cross community support, a Speaker cannot be installed and the Assembly cannot function, even in a reduced role.

Reacting to the news, Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill said on Twitter: “Today is the day we should be forming an Executive to put money in people’s pockets and to start to fix our health service.

“The DUP have confirmed they will punish the public and not turn up. They are disgracefully holding the public to ransom for their Brexit mess. Shameful.”

The DUP had previously indicated that it will not nominate for the position of Deputy First Minister, which will prevent the forming of a new Executive, as part of its protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

And in a statement to the News Letter, released this morning, Sir Jeffrey said: “Today the DUP will not support the election of a speaker in the Assembly.

“Some parties who just a few months ago were mocking the promise of decisive action from the DUP in relation to the Protocol are the very same parties now feigning surprise and outrage at a political party keeping its promise to the electorate.

“Devolution was restored on the basis of the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement. We have seen delivery of, or significant progress towards nearly every aspect of that document except one.

“That is the UK government’s promise to legislate to respect Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market.

“Twenty-eight months since that promise was made and 16 months since it should have been delivered, unionists cannot stand accused of lacking patience.”

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He added: “I have both patience and resolve in equal measure to see the Irish Sea border removed and stable as well as sustainable devolution restored.

“Unionist concerns on the Northern Ireland Protocol are not merely some political squabble which is impacting upon Stormont. The protocol is a direct challenge to the principles that have underpinned every agreement reached in Northern Ireland over the last 25 years. It erodes the very foundations that devolution has been built upon.”

MLAs are due to meet a noon where they will sign the register and designate as nationalist, unionist or other.

Speaking on BBC Good Morning Ulster, the Alliance leader and Justice Minister Naomi Long called the DUP’s move “incredibly frustrating” for society.

She said the public had overwhelmingly backed candidates who promised to go back into government.

“The DUP has said a major challenge to them is the protocol, we’re not in denial about that, we understand that but we also need to deal with the health service, we need to deal the cost of living crisis.

“We need to deal with climate change, we need to deal with the budget.

“There are many challenges that face people in society and many of them are much more acute than the protocol.”

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath also told the program his first thoughts were with his constituents who were struggling to pay bills.

“It looks like we’re not going to get an executive formed because the DUP doesn’t want to do that, it obviously doesn’t believe that the issues that people face are important enough,” he told the BBC.

“They feel that they have other priorities other than people’s lives and livelihoods and they feel they need to take a stance which prevents all of us from dealing with that.”

He added that there was a mechanism in the New Decade New Approach agreement in January 2020, which allows in the event of disagreements for a shadow Assembly to be established with caretaker ministers.

“That very rule was put in by the DUP, but they are the very ones now that are going to try to frustrate that.”

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Asked about the issues on the protocol, Mr McGrath said the best way to deal with it was to form an opinion with an Executive.

One suggestion of how to bypass the deadlock had been for the SDLP and UUP to designate as other, meaning they could join with Alliance to form the second largest designation in the Assembly.

This means Alliance could nominate a deputy First Minister without relying on the DUP to do so.

Mr McGrath said it would not be right for his party to change their designation after gaining their mandate as nationalists.

“You shouldn’t be trying to find solutions from the people that aren’t causing the problems,” he said.

Later on Good Morning Ulster, Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen called the DUP decision “extremely disappointing”.

“It doesn’t come as a surprise as they ratchet up their pressure on the UK government and the EU to deal with the protocol, this has been a long time coming.”

He said establishing as Assembly would allow many important functions to take place, such as establishing a fuel poverty taskforce.

“Yet again we’re in a situation where Northern Ireland will not have an Assembly, it will not have an Executive, people will come to harm,” he said.

“There needs to be a hard, long look at that. We cannot allow this situation to trundle on for many, many months.”

Alliance MLA Sorcha Eastwood said the DUP’s behavior was “shameful”.

“Six years ago, the DUP backed the wrong horse. They gambled on a monumentally significant referendum that gave us Brexit,” she said.

“NI voted to remain, but now, six years later they have buyer’s remorse.

“Shameful. DUP care not one jot about NI or its people.”

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