Northern Ireland’s political stalemate deepened on Friday when the British government delayed calling snap elections for the Belfast-based Assembly after the deadline to restore the suspended administration expired.
Limbo means more uncertainty and delays in government decision-making at a time when many people in Northern Ireland are struggling with skyrocketing food and energy prices.
The deadline for the Northern Ireland Assembly to choose a governing executive was passed at midnight on Thursday amid a dispute over post-Brexit trade rules. Under the rules of power-sharing politics in Northern Ireland, a new election must be held within 12 weeks. Meanwhile, public officials will keep essential services running.
UK Secretary for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris was due to announce the election date in mid-December. Instead, he said that he was in talks with the major political parties.
“I listen when parties say they really don’t want an election at all,” he said. But he added that under the political rules he had “limited options.”
“I’m still going to call an election,” Heaton-Harris said.
“It’s a really serious situation,” he added. “Until midnight one minute last night, there have been no ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive. I will take limited but necessary steps to ensure public services continue to function. and to protect public finances, but there is a limit to what (I) can do.
Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly met on Thursday but were unable to elect a president, a first step towards restoring a government that has been frozen since elections in May. Les tentatives de nominacion d’un orateur ont été bloquées par le plus grand corps unioniste britannique, le Democratic Unionist Party, dans le cadre de sa protest against post-Brexit douaniers contrôles que los unionistes considèrent comme sapant l’identité britannique de l’ North Ireland.
The crisis comes at a time of change in Northern Ireland, a part of the UK that has two main communities: mainly Protestant Unionists who consider themselves British and mostly Roman Catholic nationalists who consider themselves Irish.
In elections in May, Irish nationalist Sinn Fein, which wants Northern Ireland to join Ireland, became the largest party in the 90-seat assembly for the first time, allowing it to become prime minister. . The DUP came in second place.
Politicians from other parties have expressed dismay at the impasse that has brought Northern Ireland politics to a standstill.
“I am ashamed, ashamed to continue to be part of this circus,” said Naomi Long, leader of the centrist Alliance Party.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a border with an EU member, Ireland. When Britain left the bloc in 2020, the two sides agreed to keep the Irish border free of customs posts and other controls because an open border is a key pillar of Northern Ireland’s decades-ending violent peace process.
Instead, some goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK are controlled.
This solution turned into a political crisis, with unionist politicians refusing to form a government, saying the controls undermined their British identity. While the DUP wants the Brexit protocol scrapped, most other parties in Northern Ireland want to keep it, with adjustments to ease the burden on business.
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