Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Secretary of State suggests Assembly election to be called in new year

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Taioseach Leo Varadkar and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith sit down for the British Irish Council meeting at Farmleigh in Dublin. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday November 15, 2019. See PA story POLITICS BIC. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Taioseach Leo Varadkar and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith sit down for the British Irish Council meeting at Farmleigh in Dublin. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday November 15, 2019. See PA story POLITICS BIC. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Julian Smith has suggested Northern Ireland could head to the polls once again early next year.

Speaking at the opening of the British Irish Council meeting on Friday, Mr Smith said the current political situation could not continue and there was a need for decision making.

He said the January deadline was a "real deadline" and if there was no restoration of power sharing ahead of that an election he had a duty to call an election.

He said he had confidence, however, Stormont could be restored.

Similar deadlines have passed in the past and Westminster has enacted further legislation to put the date back.

Northern Ireland has been without a devolved administration since January 2017. Following the failure to establish an Executive after the March election that year, there has been a legal obligation to call another poll.

However, legislation delaying that expires in January.

Secretary of State Julian Smith said: "The 13th of January is the deadline, after that Northern Ireland will be without political direction.

"This situation cannot continue, the people of Northern Ireland need political decision-making.

"The institution of assembly is a key part of the Good Friday Agreement, we need the parties to get stuck in after the election."

Westminster has imposed some measures in order to ensure Northern Ireland's public services can continue. However, there have been calls for MPs to take on further responsibilities.

Lord Empey - the former UUP leader - has launched a bid from the Lords to bring about reform of the health service. Nurses are also set to strike for the first time in a bid to improve pay and conditions - something which a minister would need to approve.

Those in the the education sector have also exposed the failings of the system which has been without political leadership for almost three years.

Talks aimed at restoring the Executive have stalled since March in 2018 when a deal looked to be close before the DUP said it was unacceptable.

"I want to focus on talks, I want to get Northern Ireland up and running," Julian Smith added.

"That's what young and old people tell me day in and out, but it is inevitable that when the legislation comes to an end, there is a duty to call an election which would mark a failure on every politician on Northern Ireland, and that's why I am calling on them to get back around the table."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph