DUP block power-sharing in Brexit protest for seventh time ahead of huge workers’ strike

The DUP have blocked the establishment of an Executive for the seventh time since the 2022 election in protest at the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and Protocol and Windsor Framework.
Members of the DUP listen to Ulster Unionist Party MLA Robbie Butler at the recall of the Stormont Assembly on Wednesday.Members of the DUP listen to Ulster Unionist Party MLA Robbie Butler at the recall of the Stormont Assembly on Wednesday.
Members of the DUP listen to Ulster Unionist Party MLA Robbie Butler at the recall of the Stormont Assembly on Wednesday.

Ulster Unionist Party MLA Alan Chambers acted as chair as Stormont was recalled for the sixth time on Wednesday.

The UUP and SDLP nominated Mike Nesbitt and Patsy McGlone for the speaker’s role respectively but neither attracted sufficient cross-party support due to the DUP’s boycott.

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Sinn Féin MLA Michelle O’Neill urged the DUP to return to the Executive.

“Tomorrow 170,000 workers will take unavoidable general strike action - our nurses, doctors, civil servants, train drivers, bus drivers, teachers and education workers, police support staff, and essentially our entire public administration.

“It represents the single biggest day of industrial action in a generation.

“These workers should not have had to take to the streets.

“Because of the DUPs inaction, politics is stalled indefinitely, and our public services are at a standstill,” she told MLAs.

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Ms. O’Neill, who is in line to be First Minister if and when an Executive is ever restored, told MLAs ordinary people don’t know what the DUP are talking about when they raise concerns about the Windsor Framework.

"Regrettably, the approach of the DUP Leader is jeopardising vital public services, including health and education, with no clear explanation for stalling Executive formation.

“The argument that this continues to relate to the Windsor Framework has lost all credibility.

“Few people out there know what the DUP are talking about, and fewer care because it’s not for the common good.

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“The hardship and suffering, the bread-and-butter issues for workers, families, households and businesses is what counts and it’s what the DUP refuse to prioritise,” she said.

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She warned Wednesday’s sitting could be this Assembly’s last if the DUP do not change tack.

“If Jeffrey Donaldson does not change his approach, then this sitting may well be the final one of this Assembly.

“I fear that the democratic institutions of the Good Friday Agreement are in free-fall. And while this is reprehensible, those are the hard facts before us,” she stated.

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DUP MLA Gordon Lyons, responding, said: “This recall is much like the five others that came before it. It is a stunt. It has been cynically orchestrated to coincide with the industrial action scheduled across our public sector and this has been done in an attempt to make the public believe that the restoration of the Assembly will lead to the cancellation of the strikes tomorrow.”

"Sinn Féin know full well there is no prospect of a speaker being elected today. They know there will be no ministers nominated today and they know that even if those things were to happen the pay issue would not be settled today but will be subject ot further processes that will, of course, take time, and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.”

Mr. Lyons said the package of close to £600m for public sector pay included in Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris £3.3billion power-sharing package was not multi-annual and would lead to future financial pressures if funding for the North was not reviewed.

"What it presently on offer is a one-off package for public sector pay in the current financial year and without being provided on a recurring basis it is difficult to see how departments could ensure that commitments to staff would be honoured in future years without significantly hampering the delivery of core public services.

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“However, if the Secretary of State has the money ready he should deliver it immediately. It is unfair on our public sector workers to tie it to an increased household taxes, more revenue raising or the restoration of the Assembly,” he said.

Alliance leader Naomi Long spoke of ‘anger and despair’ among constituents.

"After almost two years without an Executive, over 18 months without an Assembly and 13 months since we last had locally elected and democratically accountable ministers in office, my party's frustration with this continued denial of basic democracy is profound.

“However, our frustration is as nothing when compared to the frustration, or perhaps more accurately, anger and despair, that so many of our constituents feel at this point,” she said.

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UUP MLA Robbie Butler told MLAs he believed the blame for the impact of the strike lay squarely with the DUP but not ‘with every member’.

"In my opinion the blockage lies with a small number of DUP MPs and lords, who are far removed from the impact on public services and lives here in NI and the impact that this veto is having on people across NI,” he said.

SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole urged the DUP to return to the Executive.

“I say to the DUP don't utter one word or one syllable of complaint when people start to talk of fundamental change in this place, whether it is ending tribal vetoes, whether it is a role for the Irish Government if we can't have devolution or, whether it is fundamentally constitutional change,” he said.

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Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister claimed the recall was an attempt to ‘break unionism’.

“How? By forcing the DUP back into the Executive with their tail between their legs to accept that never again will NI be a full part of the UK, never again will we be ruled solely by British laws, never again will there not be a partitioning border in the Irish sea, never again will we go forward as a proper part of the UK but we will be ruled by colonial laws on much of our goods which we don't make and can't change,” he claimed.

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll, backing Thursday’s industrial action, said: “Workers will no doubt be familiar with the famous adage that power cedes nothing without a demand. If there is no progress on workers’ demands, then there should be an escalation of their strike action, including a general strike and civil disobedience if necessary.”