Stormont Set to Sit Idle Through Fall


By Anthony Neeson

There seems very little chance of the Stormont Assembly re-establishing in the autumn.

Last week, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris, met with Northern Ireland’s political parties to try and break the political deadlock.

Northern Ireland has been without a government for the past 18 months after the main unionist party, the DUP, walked out as part of their protest against the post-Brexit Irish Sea trade border. The DUP insist that they will not return to Stormont until the British government provides legislative assurances to “restore” Northern Ireland’s place within the UK’s internal market.

Speaking after meeting the Secretary of State, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said “the ball is the government’s court.”

And he added: “The DUP has a mandate to restore the NI Assembly on a basis that unionists as well as nationalists can support. Consensus is the only
way forward in Northern Ireland.

“Unionists just want a fair deal. Nationalists would never have been asked to accept the kind of arrangements North-South that unionists are being asked to accept between one part of the UK and another.

“The government committed to taking action to restore our place in the UK internal market but whilst statements and headlines have been in plentiful supply, there has been a lack of meaningful action.”

Following Sinn Féin’s meeting with Mr. Heaton-Harris, party vice-president Michelle O’Neill, said: “this vacuum isn’t good enough.”

And she added: “Whilst people within the DUP take themselves off on summer holidays, workers and families are left struggling and worrying about how they are going to deal with the cost of living issues.

“We have impressed upon the Secretary of State that both himself, the British government, and the Irish government must do more. This position just isn’t tenable.” SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said there “can be no summer recess on efforts to restore devolution.”

And he added: “People are quickly running out of patience with the glacial pace of progress on these issues. A summer of drift cannot be allowed to happen.”

Irish Echo (July 26-August 1, 2023),