Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Wednesday 7 June 2023 Dublin: 13°C
Alamy Stock Photo
# NI Assembly
Third time lucky? Stormont could try to elect a speaker again soon
The Taoiseach has said that unilateral action by the UK on the Northern Ireland Protocol “would be deeply damaging”.

LAST UPDATE | Jun 7th 2022, 6:41 PM

STORMONT COULD BE recalled again to try to elect a speaker if a petition attracts the necessary support from MLAs.

The 90 MLAs must elect a speaker before a new Executive can move on to other business but the unionist DUP has blocked attempts as leverage in trying to quash the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Taoiseach has said today that it would be “deeply damaging” if the UK government acts unilaterally on the Protocol without cooperation with the EU.

Northern Ireland politicians have already been recalled twice since its elections last month.

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll has submitted a motion to recall the Assembly to discuss support for workers at construction company Caterpillar who are striking, which has received the SDLP’s support.

In a statement, SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole said that “every day that passes without an Assembly and Executive in place, the plight of struggling families across the North gets worse and worse”.

“On a weekly and monthly basis we are seeing the price of utility bills, petrol and groceries increasing exponentially, people just can’t keep up with these spiralling costs,” O’Toole said.

The SDLP is calling for the election of its Mid-Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone as speaker.

The recall petition will require the support of 30 MLAs to pass.

Carroll is the single People Before Profit MLA in the Assembly, while the SDLP has eight. Sinn Féin, with 27 Assembly members, has backed previous recall petitions.

The DUP is refusing to allow the appointments of a speaker, or a first minister and deputy first minister, to move ahead as it tries to push the UK government to resolve its concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol.  

The Protocol, agreed as part of the agreement between the EU and UK as the latter withdrew from the bloc, means that goods can continue to flow between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in line with the Good Friday Agreement. 

Instead, checks are carried out between Northern Ireland and Great Britain on trade across the Irish Sea.

Unionists argue that the arrangement is isolating Northern Ireland from Britain and Boris Johnson’s government has threatened to override parts of the deal.

Speaking to reporters at the European Parliament in Strasbourg this afternoon, the Taoiseach said that unilateral action by the UK on the Protocol “would be deeply damaging because it would represent a violation of international agreements”.

“I’m very clear that unilateralism will not work in this case,” Micheál Martin said.

“Having met with many people in Northern Ireland and crucially, the representatives of those who trade, those who are in industry, in business, in the food industry, they are very clear that increasingly the Protocol is of benefit to their businesses, to jobs, particularly to manufacturing and the food industry,” the Taoiseach said.

I would say to the United Kingdom Government, it needs to think in the first instance of the people of Northern Ireland, particularly those who create jobs in Northern Ireland, do not do anything that undermines the economic wellbeing of the people of Northern Ireland, and secondly, I would say that you should abide by international agreements.

“I don’t want to become involved in any shape or form of what’s transpiring in internal British politics, as far as I’m concerned I’m dealing with the British Prime Minister, I engage with the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he is the prime minister,” he said.

“I’ve appealed to him consistently to engage with the European Union who have shown flexibility. We’ve continued to show flexibility.

“I get a sense that the people want a bit of stability. People want to steady the ship now. And I think the first thing we could do collectively, Europe and the UK and Ireland as members of the European Union, is to do the sensible and pragmatic thing, get into negotiations, and resolve the issues around the Protocol.”

Earlier today, Stormont parties met with the head of the Northern Ireland civil service to discuss a future programme for government and a budget.

Sinn Féin Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill said she regrets that the DUP is “still boycotting” the Executive five weeks after the election.

O’Neill said issues with the protocol can be “worked on in tandem” with the normal functions of the Executive.

Speaking to media at Belfast City Hall, she said work on a programme for government, budget, and a work plan for the year can only go “so far” because of the lack of functioning Assembly and Executive.

“I regret that we’re five weeks post-election where the people voted for parties to work together and here we are today, where the DUP are still boycotting the formation of an Executive which would allow us to actually respond to the things that really troubling people right now, the cost of living crisis, the things that are really worrying people about the difficult months that we have ahead,” O’Neill said.

“I still again today call on the DUP to join the rest of the parties who actually want to agree a programme for government, agree a budget, prioritise our health service, prioritise putting money in people’s pockets.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment

    Leave a commentcancel