No pre-Christmas Assembly election: Secretary of State accused of 'more dithering'

The Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris has been accused of ‘more Tory dithering’ by Sinn Féin after he ruled out holding a fresh Assembly election before Christmas or the New Year.

Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill with Derry MLAs Pádraig Delargy and Ciara Ferguson.
Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill with Derry MLAs Pádraig Delargy and Ciara Ferguson.

Following discussions with NI party leaders over the past week, Mr Heaton-Harris MP said he will lay out his plans for what will happen next over the coming days.

Ruling out a December election, he said: “At midnight on 28 October, I came under a duty to call an Assembly election. Since then, my engagement with the political parties has continued.

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"I have had valuable conversations with people across Northern Ireland, including business and community representatives. I have listened to their sincere concerns about the impact and cost of an election at this time.

Chris Heaton-Harris.

“Current legislation requires me to name a date for an election to take place within 12 weeks of 28 October and next week. I will make a statement in Parliament to lay out my next steps.”

He added: “My objective, what the people of Northern Ireland deserve, is the restoration of a strong devolved government. My duty is to create the right environment for the parties in Northern Ireland to work together to restore the devolved institutions and deliver on crucial issues impacting Northern Ireland’s people.”

Sinn Féin Leas-Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill however claimed that the British Secretary of State is ‘adding to political instability and leaving struggling workers and families in a state of limbo’ and of ‘more dithering and indecision’.

“The British government are fuelling the political instability caused by the DUP’s failure to recognise the result of the May election when the people voted for change,” she said.

“The British government and the DUP are leaving us in a prolonged state of political limbo with no Assembly, Executive or caretaker ministers. This is totally unacceptable at a time when workers, families and small businesses are struggling through the cost-of-living crisis and a cold winter and when our health service needs immediate investment.”

Ms O’Neill also called on the Secretary of State to say when they propose to give people here the £400 cost of living energy payment they have waited months for.