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DUP leader accuses SDLP of seeking ‘media opportunity’ over Assembly recall

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DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson pictured this morning at The Grand Central Hotel, Belfast. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson pictured this morning at The Grand Central Hotel, Belfast. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson pictured this morning at The Grand Central Hotel, Belfast. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has accused the SDLP of being more interested in “a media opportunity” than restoring the Assembly.

He made the comments as the SDLP has secured an Assembly recall today to elect a new speaker.

It is expected to fail and the UUP has also dismissed the SDLP’s move as a stunt.

Since the Assembly election in May, the DUP has refused to elect a new speaker or form a new Executive because of concerns over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Two previous attempts to elect a speaker have already failed.

Speaking to BBC Good Morning Ulster, Sir Jeffrey said: “The SDLP know that recalling the Assembly today won’t solve any of the problems which have led to the situation we are in."

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He claimed there was “no engagement” from the SDLP, and that the party had opposed every attempt to find a solution over the protocol.

"So I’m afraid we do have to conclude that today is more about the SDLP seeking a media opportunity than it is about finding a solution on the protocol.”

He noted that every unionist in the Assembly opposed the protocol, and urged the SDLP to better understand their concerns.

Earlier, the SDLP said the plenary session would serve as a challenge to get the DUP back to work.

SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole, who has been named as leader of the opposition at Stormont, said it was “astonishing” the DUP continued to operate a veto over the institutions.

He said the recall was justified for two main reasons; the deepening cost-of-living crisis and that new protocol legislation had already passed through the House of Commons.

“I completely reject the idea that it’s somehow a stunt or that it’s pointless to recall the Assembly,” he said.

"I’m afraid basic democracy and accountability have to become the norm in this place.”

The TUV leader Jim Allister said the protocol had now reduced Stormont to “stunt politics”.

“The consequence of the protocol is felt right across our political institutions,” he said.

He cited the late David Trimble’s opposition to the protocol in recent years, saying the former UUP leader felt it had “ripped apart” the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Allister said that the protocol had changed the balance between the different jurisdictions, making Great Britain “a foreign country”.


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