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MLAs to gather in latest attempt to elect Stormont speaker

MLAs will gather at Stormont in the latest attempt to restore Northern Ireland’s decentralized power-sharing institutions.

However, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s Democratic Unionist Party will again block the election of a Speaker of Parliament, meaning no more business can be done.

The SDLP, which filed the recall request, said the plenary session would serve as a call for the DUP to get back to work.

The Stormont institutions have been in flux since February, when the DUP withdrew its first minister from the devolved executive and asked the UK government to respond to the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.

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DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson calls for movement on NI protocol before Stormont institutions can be restored (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The party has stood firm, resisting a series of attempts to revive power-sharing institutions until it sees progress by the Westminster government in removing trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Two previous attempts to select a Speaker, which would pave the way for the First and Deputy First Minister nominations, have failed.

A motion to debate the cost-of-living crisis is also planned for Wednesday’s parliamentary session, but it will not go through without the election of a speaker.

Since the Assembly last met, the crisis facing families and households across Northern Ireland has deepenedMatthew O’Toole

SDLP Stormont leader Matthew O’Toole said it was “outrageously cruel” for the assembly not to function at a time when families were struggling with soaring prices.

He said: “Since the Assembly last met, the crisis facing families and households across Northern Ireland has deepened.

“Energy prices are skyrocketing, fuel costs are prohibitively high and thousands are now facing the added burden of going back to school with no additional support from the people they voted in three months ago with a promise to help.

“The challenge the SDLP opposition will pose to the DUP is simple – get back to work or declare yourself to the thousands of families held for ransom over the past 90 days.

“The excuses about the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill have evaporated after the legislation passed through its Commons stages.

“Continuing to deny people urgent support is unethical, immoral and appallingly cruel.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Mike Nesbitt has been nominated for the role of Speaker on the last two occasions the Assembly has been recalled.

He said he didn’t think the recall would do anything while there were outstanding differences over the protocol.

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UUP MLA Mike Nesbitt questioned the rationale behind calling off the assembly while differences over NI protocol remained (Liam McBurney/PA)

He said: “It’s not going anywhere. Everyone knows it’s going nowhere. So we question the meaning behind it.

“I think what would be better than a show, a public show in this hall, would be for party leaders to meet quietly and privately and try to resolve the differences.

“We have challenges. We currently have no crises. Let’s tackle the challenges.”

The recalled Assembly meeting was originally scheduled to take place last week but was postponed following the death of Lord Trimble, one of the key architects of the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Nesbitt said: “There is only one fitting tribute to David Trimble and that is for all of us here at Stormont to get the institutions running again, deal with the issues including protocol and deal with everything that is we have to deal with it.

“We are facing challenges, but they are nothing like what David Trimble faced 25 years ago.”

He added: “We need to get back to a power-sharing and responsibility-sharing government here at Stormont.”

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/mlas-to-gather-in-latest-attempt-to-elect-stormont-speaker-41886575.html MLAs to gather in latest attempt to elect Stormont speaker

Linh

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