Fresh Assembly election called for March

The Secretary of State has announced that a fresh Assembly election will take place on March.

Monday, 16th January 2017, 4:39 pm
Updated Monday, 16th January 2017, 5:42 pm
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness at Storming on Monday morning. (Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker)

The new election will take place on Thursday, March 2, with the Assembly to be dissolved on January 26.

James Brokenshire confirmed on Monday night that the election will now go ahead after Sinn Fein reiterated in the Assembly earlier that it would not be putting forward a replacement for Martin McGuinness in the role of Deputy First Minister.

The move was seen as inevitable after Martin McGuinness resigned last week, effectively forcing Arlene Foster out of her office as First Minister in the wake of her refusal to stand aside following the Renewable Heating Incentive scandal.

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood. (Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press)

The outgoing MLAs for Foyle are Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness and Raymond McCartney, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and his party colleague Mark H Durkan, People Before Profit’s Eamonn McCann and the DUP’s Gary Middleton.

It was unclear last night how many of the six will be throwing their hat back in the ring in the forthcoming fight in Foyle.

Various senior figures from Sinn Fein today echoed comments made by Mr McGuinness following his resignation in stating that there will no return to the status quo post-elections.

Speaking in the Assembly, Health Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “If something is broken, you stop and you fix it. Today Sinn Féin will not re-nominate for the position of deputy First Minister.”

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood. (Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press)

“Sinn Féin has honoured all agreements, we have striven to make these institutions work.

“Martin McGuinness has acted at all times with integrity, dignity and respect. He has taken personal and political risks to build a process of reconciliation.

“If we are to return to this chamber then there must be real change. There must be respect and equality for all sections of our people.

“These institutions must operate to the highest standards, with no place for arrogance, or malpractice.”

DUP leader and former First Minister Arlene Foster has blamed Sinn Fein for the election.

She said: “They have forced an election that risks Northern Ireland’s future and its stability and suits nobody but themselves.

“They will take every vote for them as an encouragement that they can bring down the NI Executive whenever they don’t get their own way, whatever the cost to Northern Ireland.”