Northern Ireland minister rules out pre-New Year parliamentary elections

UK Central Government Secretary for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris said on Friday that Northern Ireland will not hold a general election before the start of the new year.

and written statementThe minister said the decision to rule out Christmas elections was taken after listening to concerns from people across Northern Ireland. rice field.

Heaton Harris was legally dismissed within 12 weeks from 28 October after Northern Irish politicians failed to form a functioning parliament with senior officials by the deadline over a dispute over parts of the UK’s Brexit deal on Northern Ireland. We are obliged to hold parliamentary elections.

The Caretaker Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive had to leave his post and the region was directly governed under Westminster in London.

It was previously believed that Heaton Harris would set an election date for 28 October, but the minister chose to speak to Northern Ireland’s party leaders before making a decision.

On Friday, Heaton Harris confirmed that “no parliamentary elections will take place before December or the festive season.”

The minister said he had listened to the “sincere concerns about the impact and costs of the election at this time” of people in the region, including business and community representatives.

He said he would update Parliament in Westminster next week on next steps, adding that his aim was to “restore a strong decentralized government” in Northern Ireland.

power sharing

With the 1998 Good Friday pact ending decades of sectarian strife between Irish nationalists and pro-British union members, Northern Ireland’s legislative and executive powers were transferred to the largest union party, the DUP. and Sinn Fein, the largest Irish Republican party. .

The executive branch ceased to function fully in February after then-Prime Minister Paul Givan of the DUP resigned in protest of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Epoch Times photo
Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neil, undated file photo. (Liam McBurney/PA)

After Sinn Fein overtook the DUP to become the largest party in parliament for the first time after the 5 May parliamentary elections, the DUP would not participate in forming new cadres or nominating the Speaker of Parliament unless the UK government took action. I refused. protocol.

Parliament cannot perform its functions until a speaker is elected. Legislative changes earlier this year allowed the chief executive, previously allowed to remain in office for two weeks after an election, to remain in office for 24 weeks until new elections are held.

The deadline has passed on October 28th.

Part of the UK’s Brexit Agreement, the Northern Ireland Protocol left Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market to avoid strict borders between the region and the Republic of Ireland. However, it effectively places a trade border on the Irish Sea, separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Northern Ireland Protocol

Following Heaton Harris’ statement on Friday, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: twitter It has a “very sharp focus” on getting a solution to the Northern Ireland Protocol, either by negotiating with the EU or enacting legislation to unilaterally suspend parts of the deal.

“A solid foundation for Stormont to be fully functional is [the Northern Ireland Protocol] superseded by an arrangement that union members can support,” he wrote, adding that progress will only be possible when both union members and nationalists participate.

Epoch Times photo
DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Sinn Fein’s O’Neill said the postponement was “unacceptable” and accused Heaton Harris of “encouraging political instability”.

In a written statement, she said the UK government was “fostering political instability caused by the DUP’s failure to recognize the outcome of the May elections where people voted for change”.

“The UK government and the DUP are leaving us in a long period of political instability without a parliamentary, executive or caretaker minister,” she said.

The DUP has vowed to prevent its formation until the UK government takes “decisive action” on the Northern Ireland Protocol, so it is unclear whether Northern Ireland’s institutions will be able to recover after new elections.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Irish Prime Minister Michelle Martin on his second day in office that his hopes for a protocol resolution “remain the outcome of negotiations”, according to a Downing Street spokesperson. .

The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, intended to unilaterally nullify parts of the Protocol, was proposed by Liz Truss as one of her last acts as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and is currently under scrutiny in the House of Lords. increase.

Lily Zhou


Lily Zhou is an Ireland-based reporter focusing on UK news. Lily said she attended the Chinese version of The Epoch Times for the first time before she focused on the UK in 2020.