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Sinn Fein table motion to recall Assembly in bid to elect First and deputy First Ministers

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Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan has urged the DUP to "stop blocking an Executive" so that cost of living crisis can be tackled

Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan has urged the DUP to "stop blocking an Executive" so that cost of living crisis can be tackled

Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan has urged the DUP to "stop blocking an Executive" so that cost of living crisis can be tackled

The Sinn Fein chief whip confirmed that the party tabled a motion on Wednesday to recall the Assembly, in a bid to elect a Speaker, and a First and deputy First Minister.

West Belfast MLA Pat Sheehan said an Executive must be formed now “to allow parties to get to work on behalf of the people” and “to help deal with the cost of living and support workers and families who are struggling”.

He added that an extra £1bn will be invested into the Northern Ireland health service “to reduce waiting lists, support cancer and mental health services, and recruit more doctors and nurses” if the DUP “stop blocking an Executive being formed”.

When the NI government last collapsed five years ago – following deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness’ resignation over the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal –  Mr Sheehan had made a guarantee that his party would not return to Stormont unless there was an agreement on an Irish language act, a bill of rights and resolution on dealing with the legacy of the past.

Irish language legislation has only now been introduced on Wednesday by the NI Secretary of State, who has said the law will “mark a significant milestone” in Northern Ireland. 

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Additionally, the new and controversial Troubles legacy and reconciliation legislation from the British government has cleared its first Commons hurdle without support from any of Northern Ireland’s MP s.

The Bill is intended to establish an Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR), which would review deaths and other harmful conduct within the Troubles – defined as the period from January 1 1966 to April 10 1998.

It will offer immunity to people who are deemed to have co-operated with the information retrieval body, but criminal prosecutions could still take place.

Conservative MPs hope the measures will stop “vexatious” action against British military personnel who served in Northern Ireland.

Minutes after Sinn Fein’s statement on tabling the new motion was released on Wednesday, the DUP’s Gordon Lyons urged the British Government “to get on and take the necessary action to restore” NI’s place in the UK. 

"Progress is only made in Northern Ireland with the support of unionists and nationalists. If no nationalists supported the Protocol, Washington, London, Brussels and Dublin would be demanding change”, said the former Economy Minister. 

"If this Protocol had resulted in checks, costs and charges between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, there would be outrage.

“The DUP has a mandate to see the Protocol replaced with arrangements that restore our place within the UK internal market. We have set seven tests and that is what we will judge the Government’s action against.”

The DUP has refused to elect a Speaker to Stormont since the results of the 2022 Assembly elections were released over a fortnight ago, with leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson maintaining his party will not go back into government until the NI Protocol is removed or amended. 

Mr Lyons continued: “Since it came into operation in January 2021, the Northern Ireland Protocol has damaged both the Northern Ireland economy and our democratic arrangements.

"It has created a border down the Irish Sea resulting in lengthy and time-consuming customs checks, increased bureaucracy, reduced availability of goods available for Northern Irish consumers, supply chain disruption, and confusion for businesses surrounding taxes imposed on items deemed to be ‘at risk’ of entering the European Union through Northern Ireland.”

This week, a US delegation led by senior Democrat Richard Neal is visiting the Republic and Northern Ireland amid ongoing tensions caused by the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Mr Donaldson and his party have dubbed the delegation’s approach to the Protocol as “one-sided”, with Mr Neal claiming that issues pertaining to the post-Brexit deal seem to be widely “manufactured”, adding that problems around it "could be ironed out quickly".


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