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Home / News / New Stormont Assembly deadline to be set for 8 February

New Stormont Assembly deadline to be set for 8 February

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has confirmed the new deadline of 8 February for resurrecting a powersharing executive at Stormont.

“Tomorrow I will be introducing the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill to allow for the reformation of Stormont,” he said.

“The bill only has a single clause: to extend the period of time Stormont can legitimately come back until 8 February.

“I am committed to restoring devolution and significant progress has been made towards that objective. I believe that this bill, with the constrained timescales, will be sufficient.”

The move had been widely expected and has been used several times before.

The short timeframe indicates that the Northern Ireland Office expects the DUP to be in a position to decide by then whether or not it will return to power-sharing.

A previous deadline expired at midnight last Thursday placing Mr Heaton- Harris under a legal obligation to call a fresh election.

House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt said MPs will consider all stages of the “short Bill relating to the executive formation in Northern Ireland” tomorrow.

Ms Mordaunt said the bill will be “handed in today and so published tomorrow”, adding: “I recognise that is a short amount of time for the house, but it is a very short bill and I think the house will be able to cope with that situation.”

She added: “The government remains firmly of the belief that a sitting Northern Ireland executive is best placed to act quickly and effectively to resolve issues for the people it serves and that is our aim.”

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill said it was “decision time” for the DUP.

“People have rightly had enough of the DUPs inaction,” she said.

“They need mature and positive leadership focused on delivering for them.

“My message to the DUP is to work with us, get round the executive table and make a difference to people’s lives.”

The DUP has refused to reinstate power-sharing in a dispute over post Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland.

It says the current checks applied to goods coming from Britain to Northern Ireland leaves Northern Ireland economically and constitutionally cut off from the rest of the UK.

The party has been talking to the UK government about changes to the Windsor Framework rulebook, which it could accept as the basis for returning to power sharing.

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill said it was ‘decision time’ for the DUP

Mr Heaton-Harris has said the talks have concluded and its time for the party to make a decision.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said yesterday that progress had been made, but further gaps needed to be closed to secure a deal acceptable to his party.

He denied that a meeting of his party officers last Friday had been a make or break gathering to decide whether to accept the offer on the table.

It comes as public transport workers in Northern Ireland are planning four further days of strike action next month as part of a dispute over pay.

Public transport workers were among those who took part in mass industrial action in Northern Ireland last week.

During negotiations about the restoration of Stormont powersharing institutions in December, Mr Heaton-Harris offered a £3.3 billion (€3.9 billion) package to stabilise finances in Northern Ireland, including £600 million (€700 million) to settle public sector pay claims.

However, the British government has insisted the package is dependent on a deal to restore Stormont.

Additional reporting PA

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