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DUP attacks 'republican entitlement' and again blocks election of Stormont speaker

The DUP’s Paul Givan labelled today’s recall of the Assembly ‘a stunt’.

Paul Givan of the DUP speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly today.
Paul Givan of the DUP speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly today.
Image: Northern Ireland Assembly

Updated May 30th 2022, 1:58 PM

THE NORTHERN IRELAND Assembly has again failed to elect a Speaker after the DUP refused to back any of the nominees. 

The move means that the Assembly cannot function and is unable to appoint first and deputy first ministers, effectively preventing a new Executive being formed.

Today’s session of the Assembly was suspended as business cannot be carried out without a Speaker.

Today’s meeting was the second meeting of the Assembly since the 5 May election that saw Sinn Féin emerge as the largest party. 

As with the first meeting almost three weeks ago, the UUP’s Mike Nesbitt and the SDLP’s Patsy McGlone were again nominated as Speaker but their nominations did not receive cross-community support in the chamber. 

Under Assembly rules, the election of Speaker has to be approved by a majority of both nationalists and unionists. With the DUP not supporting either candidate, no unionist majority could be secured.

The Assembly was meeting today a a motion was tabled by Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Alliance Party which which argued that there was an “urgent” need to form an Executive to addressing pressing issues “including the cost of living crisis and the challenges in our health system”. 

A recall of the Assembly was possible after it received the support of more than 30 of the 90 MLAs. 

Speaking in the Assembly today, the DUP’s Paul Givan said today’s sitting was “a stunt” by Sinn Féin and was “not a serious attempt to restore the principles of power-sharing”. 

 He also accused the Alliance Party of pushing for “majority supremacy” by “unashamedly joining with the SDLP and Sinn Féin.

What we’ve had over the past three weeks from when we last met to elect a speaker has been republican entitlement, has been majority supremacy from the Alliance Party no less, the party of the cross-community party that have abandoned that territory and now unashamedly joined with the SDLP and Sinn Féin, joining for majority rule, calling for the Belfast Agreement to be changed so that these proceedings can proceed without Unionists having their say.

The DUP’s has said its position in blocking the Assembly is part of its protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Speaking today, Givan said that “progress is being made” over the Protocol and he claimed that his party’s stance is the reason for this. 

“We were told that there will be no renegotiation of the Protocol. Now the European Union recognise change needs to come. So I want to welcome the progress that this party has been able to gain and achieve over the past two weeks,” he said. 

However, the SDLP’s Stormont leader Matthew O’Toole said it was “genuinely abhorrent and unconscionable” of the DUP to be blocking the work of the Assembly. 

“I don’t know how he party opposite can face the people who they’d asked for a vote. I don’t know how I’d face them, blocking us from even electing a Speaker to have debates and to shadow ministers to account,” he said. 

Sinn Fén’s leader in Stormont Michelle O’Neill said that the majority of people in the Assembly believe the Protocol was “workable”. 

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“The majority of new MLAs elected here in this chamber support the Protocol, believe that it is workable if given the chance to be implemented and believed that were any issues exist that can only be resolved,” she said. 

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

“There is much that can be done by an executive to tackle the cost-of-living crisis,” he said. 

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.

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

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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