Politics Made Simple Episode 10: What is Northern Ireland’s State of Affairs Now?

Welcome back for another Politics Made Simple blog, and for part ten of my series. In this blog, I’m going to describe Northern Ireland’s state of affairs following May’s Assembly Election in a way that is simple to understand.

So as you will know from the coverage there has been already, Sinn Féin became the largest party in Northern Ireland for the first time in history after May’s Assembly Election. This means that for the first time in history, the biggest party in Northern Ireland’s executive is a Republican Party, which some will argue is a sign that Northern Ireland’s constitutional position might be changing, since Sinn Féin’s Leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, now has enough votes to take up the role of First Minister, as soon as power sharing in Stormont continues to work again.

Then Why is There No Sitting Government in Northern Ireland at the Minute?

Well although five parties were elected to go back into the executive, only four of them are willing to do so at the minute, with one of them being happy to continue their protest in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol, but to make this sound simpler, we need to go back to before the election.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) pulled their First Minister, Paul Givan, out of the executive in February, and one of their main promises on the run up to the election was that they wouldn’t go back in until after the Protocol was scrapped. Therefore, a lot of the people who voted for the DUP last time will say that they’re doing everything they voted for them to do, which they will also remind people, is exactly what Sinn Féin did for three years.

In the days following the election results, the DUP went up and signed into Stormont before walking straight back out again. This allows them to continue getting paid while not exactly being in the building, which is the same as the rest of the parties.

But while the DUP staying out has left Northern Ireland without a government, a caretaker government has been working in their place. However, these caretaker ministers have limited powers, and they’re only in place until the 26th of October. After that date, Northern Ireland will be left with no one in charge, unless we get our government back before then or we’re taken under Direct Rule, neither of which are likely to happen.

Is it Likely that there will be another Assembly Election Before the End of the year?

This is another option that does seem highly unlikely, but it definitely can’t be complete ruled out at the minute, though a lot of parties — as well as the public — have voiced how they wouldn’t like it.

With the 26th of October being the deadline for how long caretaker ministers can work for, the NIO have started drawing up plans for a snap Assembly election. But as we know from the time when Sinn Féin collapsed the government, politicians can threaten to call for an Assembly Election without actually calling for one.

And so, while there’s a cost of living crisis, problems with the health service, people are struggling to pay for essentials and more, that’s exactly where we are.

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