Welcome back for the next instalment of my Politics Made Simple series, and for some more simple guides around the confusing world of politics. In this blog, I’m going to be explaining if Northern Ireland is going to be facing another assembly election shortly into the New Year, in a way that is simple to understand.
So why has Northern Ireland’s Assembly Collapsed this time?
Northern Ireland has been without a government since February 2022, when Stormont wad collapsed as a result of the DUP withdrawing their First Minister at the time, Paul Givan, out of the government. This meant that Michelle O’Neill had to resign from the job she had at the time (Deputy First Minister), as the entire executive collapsed around us.
But didn’t an Assembly Election already take place?
Yes, an election has already taken place, that saw Sinn Fein becoming the biggest party and winning enough seats to become First Minister, with the DUP losing 3 seats.
This means that for the first time in our history, as soon as Stormont is resumed, we will have a Republican First Minister, with Unionism for the first time in our history only having enough seats to become Deputy First Minister?
Then why are we Hearing about more assembly elections in Northern Ireland Again?
Well although a government should have been elected as soon as the results of May’s Assembly Election was known — as a result of the DUP still deciding to carry on their protest against the Protocol — this hasn’t been allowed to happen.
While a Caretaker Government (most of the government ministers who were in place before Stormont collapsed), were in place up to recently, they no longer are in place, as the Assembly wasn’t resumed by 11pm on the 28th of October — the legal deadline that was in place for Stormont to restore power sharing.
As this deadline has now past, Northern Ireland has been left with no ministers in charge of anything.
But for a couple of months, there was a bit of hope that — depending on your view — may or might not have changed anything.
On the 2nd of September 2022, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State (at that time), Shailesh Vara, threatened to call a new Northern Ireland Assembly Election if the executive wasn’t resumed by the end of October, but on September the 6th, he was sacked by Liz Truss.
Also on the 6th of September, a new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris was appointed, and for the next seven weeks, he threatened to call a second Northern Ireland Assembly Election.
However, unfortunately the 28th of October came and went.
On the 29th of October, Heaton-Harris made a bizarre U-Turn, which saw him announcing that he would take a week to decide whether or not to call the Election.
1 week later, a Christmas Election was completely ruled out, and Chris Heaton-Harris’s reputation could now be argued as being left in tatters.
Where are we now?
So since the idea of a Christmas election has been abandoned, we have been left with a few other promises, but whether or not the public should trust any of them is another thing altogether.
A new election has been promised if the executive is still down by January the 19th, and — if it happens — might happen within the first 3 months of 2023.
Elsewhere, the Secretary of State has also promised to cut the pay of Northern Ireland’s politicians, but no date has been given for when this will happen either.