No Assembly Election In Northern Ireland This December, Secretary Of State Confirms

Chris Heaton-Harris said the people of NI deserved the restoration of a strong, devolved government.
Parliament Buildings, the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly, are pictured on the Stormont Estate in Belfast.
Parliament Buildings, the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly, are pictured on the Stormont Estate in Belfast.
PAUL FAITH via Getty Images

The people of Northern Ireland will not have to return to the polls before Christmas, a cabinet minister has announced.

Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris confirmed on Friday that a fresh Stormont Assembly election will not take place in December.

He said he will outline his next steps in parliament next week.

The secretary of state was obliged to call an election within 12 weeks of October 28 - when the deadline for political parties to form a fresh executive ran out.

He met Stormont parties earlier this week, as well as Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney.

Speculation was heightened on Wednesday after Steve Baker, a junior minister in the Northern Ireland Office, insisted the date for a Northern Ireland election will be confirmed soon.

But in a statement on Friday morning, Heaton-Harris said he had listened to concerns about the impact and the cost of an election at this time.

“I can now confirm that no Assembly election will take place in December, or ahead of the festive season,” he said in the statement.

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.

“I do not take this duty lightly, nor do I overlook the very real concerns people have around their cost of living.”

The DUP boycotted the devolved institutions in protest at Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol which stopped an administration being formed in the wake of the election result.

While the UK government has a legal responsibility to call a fresh election within 12 weeks, it could amend legislation at Westminster to extend or remove the time limit.

The government has vowed to secure changes to the protocol, either by a negotiated compromise with the EU or through proposed unilateral domestic legislation, the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which would empower ministers to scrap the arrangements without the approval of Brussels.

The European Commission has said the latter approach would breach the terms of an international treaty and potentially prompt retaliatory action.


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