Fed-up voters have sent a clear message to MLAs, telling them that it is time to get back to work.
Hours after DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson confirmed the party would not nominate a Speaker, people in Belfast told of their anger at another political impasse.
Lisburn woman Lorraine Crawford asked: “If I didn’t go to work, I wouldn’t get paid, why should they be any different?
“It’s totally ridiculous because there’s enough things going on here, they need to get back to work and get these issues sorted for everyone.”
Deborah Archer said the whole situation is “very frustrating”.
“I believe all the parties have to get together and do something about this; the cost of living and funding for education is what is needed right now. These are fundamental issues that need resolved, instead of debates on the protocol,” she said.
The Belfast Telegraph spoke to people outside Belfast City Hall on Friday afternoon to gauge opinion on the latest stalemate.
It came on the same day this newspaper reported that taxpayers face paying out more than £94,000 a week in wages to MLAs and ministers even if the Assembly is not sitting.
Over the next six months, the taxpayer could be footing a bill of almost £2.5m.
People we spoke to urged those ‘on the hill’ to take their seats and “get the real issues addressed”.
A healthcare worker from Dundonald believes that MLAs’ salaries should be given to the health service until a functioning Executive is reinstated.
“When I went to vote I didn’t know who to vote for, I don’t trust any of them,” she said.
“Our healthcare system should be getting the money, not them. Everyone is just totally fed up with it all.
“We have to work together, so why can’t they?
“In fact, we had no choice during the pandemic — doctors and nurses even came out of retirement to give a hand out for the greater good of the people here — so that is where the money should go.”
The public reaction echoed criticism of DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson from other Stormont parties.
Without the much-needed cross-community support, a Speaker cannot be installed and the Assembly cannot function, even in a reduced role.
The DUP previously indicated 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 protocol.
A Newtownabbey woman, who did not wish to be named, said that Northern Ireland is being made a “laughing stock” by the DUP’s decision.
“It is just totally scandalous and wrong that they can go in, sign the roll and not appoint a Speaker,” she said.
“I understand that the protocol is a problem for some people, but in my opinion, Stormont can’t do anything about it, so why are they holding the people of Northern Ireland to ransom?”
By contrast, a Carryduff man, who also did not wish to be named, said the DUP has his “full support” and believes that any decision taken by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is the right one.
“They have to stand up for themselves, you can’t blame the DUP for everything,” he said.
“Yes, everybody needs to work together to get the Executive back up, but I think this is the only way to get rid of the protocol.”
A Belfast tour guide said that only parties who wish to get back to work, should be paid.
“About 70% of the votes counted last week went to parties other than the DUP,” said Steven Malone.
“This shows that the people of Northern Ireland want real change and not everyone should be blamed here, by and large most of the parties want to get back to work, so they should be able to do so.”
North Belfast man Conall McGrandles said he voted Sinn Fein in the latest Assembly election and said that, while he doesn’t feel his vote was wasted, “the outcome and the exercise itself has proved to be a waste of time”.
“This is the first time in history that Sinn Fein are the biggest party and it feels like the DUP are just holding them to ransom,” he said.
“On the other hand, if we don’t go to work, we don’t get paid, and both sides are just so bitter at the minute it has left our future uncertain.”