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MLAs plan month off at Christmas

Assembly members are planning an almost four-week Christmas break, it was confirmed last night.

The final full plenary session of the current Assembly term is to be on Tuesday, December 9, with the 108 MLAs not then due to return until Monday, January 5. While some committees will still be meeting up until Friday, December 12, it means a total possible Yuletide and New Year holiday of 27 days. It comes as members are already enjoying their annual week-long Halloween recess.

And it was also confirmed last night that the next full Stormont Executive meeting, scheduled for tomorrow, will again not take place. Both senior DUP and Sinn Fein sources admitted the meeting would not happen, for the fifth time since the Assembly resumed in September.

Details of the Christmas recess came as the row between the two main Executive parties, which is preventing meetings taking place, continued. Relations appear to have further soured over a disagreement on a joint letter agreed by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness that a future Justice Minister will “at all times” be appointed by Assembly cross-community vote.

Sinn Fein insisted the phrase had been into the joint letter “to specifically deal with a proposal that a future Justice Minister would be a Commissioner appointed from outside the Assembly.

“Both ourselves and the DUP agreed this should not be the case hence (the phrase) ‘Minister elected at all times from the Assembly in a way which would ensure cross community support’,” a party spokesman said.

But DUP South Antrim MP Rev William McCrea said: “We all know that the Sinn Fein definition of partnership government is vastly different from that of every sensible person in Northern Ireland. To Sinn Fein partnership is defined by everyone else rolling over and giving them exactly what they want when they want it.

“Unfortunately for them those days are over.”

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