Northern Irish elections extended up to 12 weeks despite Sinn Féin demands

Muiris O'Cearbhaill

The Northern Irish General Elections, called for by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris last week, have been pushed back for 12 weeks. Mr Heaton-Harris hopes that the European Union and the United Kingdom will find common ground within this period.

A new law has been introduced allowing the Northern Irish Assembly to defer elections for six weeks with the allocation of a six-week extension to be placed after if necessary. Due to this, a Northern Irish general election might not occur until April 2023.

The Assembly has not been active since the general election in May, after members of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refused to return until a settlement around the Northern Irish Protocol was reached between the EU and the United Kingdom.

Mr Heaton-Harris, with the powers assigned to him, called for a general election to take place to the dismay of many parties both in the North and in the Republic. However, an announcement made by the Secretary to Northern Ireland today has quelled the worries of many in both regions.

Heaton-Harris spoke in Westminster this week announcing that he will be “introducing legislation to provide a short, straightforward, extension to the person of executive formation.” This extension will see the current period pushed back until the 8th of December when the Assembly will decide if they should extend a poll for another six weeks, until the 19th of January.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney welcomed this announcement adding, “The people of Northern Ireland need functioning institutions, working to improve their daily lives.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed “procrastination” was occurring on the UK’s part during their talks to reach a settlement. Sinn Féin originally supported the motion for election before Heaton-Harris met with various parties last week.

Speaking during the first Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis last weekend, First Minister Michelle O’Neill said “we have been ready to work with other parties and to serve all communities. It is so wrong that issues that are affecting the daily lives of people are being put on hold because one party, one party, refuses to accept the democratic outcome of last May’s election.”

O’Neill added on Twitter this week that she wants to serve all Northern Irish citizens as First Minister, and called it “shameful” that the DUP refused to accept last May’s election results.

In a statement this week, released by the DUP, party leader Jeffery Donaldson claimed that the restoration of Stormont will come when the replacement of the Northern Irish Protocol is complete.

Donaldson said, “If the Secretary of State wants to restore Stormont, then he must ensure the Government replaces the Protocol with arrangements that unionists can support.” Adding, “…every unionist MLA and MP opposes the Protocol.

Muiris O’Cearbhaill

Image credit: Wikipedia