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Stormont Assembly to sit in fresh bid to elect speaker

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T

he Stormont Assembly will meet on Monday in a fresh bid to nominate a speaker after more than 30 MLAs signed a recall petition.

Following a motion from Sinn Fein, outgoing speaker Alex Maskey told MLAs that the purpose of Monday’s recall will be to elect a speaker, deputy speakers and to appoint a first minister and deputy first minister.

The Democratic Unionist Party has labelled the move a “stunt” by Sinn Fein, which emerged as the largest party in the Assembly election earlier this month.

We were elected to sit in Stormont, to make legislation and to protect people within our communities

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s party has so far blocked the election of a speaker and the formation of an executive following the Northern Ireland Assembly elections, as part of its protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

On Sunday, Sinn Fein Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey denied that the return to Stormont was a stunt.

“It is not timewasting. We were elected to sit in Stormont, to make legislation and to protect people within our communities,” Ms Hargey said.

“Our role as elected leaders is to work on behalf of those who elected us, to work on behalf of communities. We have been hearing the struggle, people are crying out for help.”

DUP East Antrim MLA Gordon Lyons hit out at the move by Sinn Fein, but insisted that the decision to block the Assembly from sitting was contributing to progress against the protocol.

We don’t want to be in this position but we have made more progress in two weeks than we made in the previous two years

“Sinn Fein know this recall will not change anything. The problem is the protocol,” Mr Lyons said.

“We don’t want to be in this position but we have made more progress in two weeks than we made in the previous two years.

“It’s unfortunate that it has taken this step to bring the matter to a head.”

The DUP also faced criticism last week, after concerns were raised that the absence of an executive will prevent a UK-wide £400 discount on energy bills going to Northern Irish households.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the DUP should do the “right thing” and support the nomination of a speaker.

The Foyle MP said: “Their decision to stop the Assembly from sitting has left us powerless to get support to people dealing with the costs crisis.”

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