No new devolved elections in Northern Ireland this year, UK Government announces
A fresh Stormont Assembly election will not take place in December, the Northern Ireland Secretary has announced.
Chris Heaton-Harris said he will outline his next steps in Parliament next week.
Mr Heaton-Harris is obliged to call an election within 12 weeks of October 28 when the deadline for the Northern Ireland parties to form a fresh executive ran out.
He met Stormont parties earlier this week, as well as Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.
Speculation was heightened on Wednesday after Steve Baker, a junior minister in the Northern Ireland Office, insisted the date for a Northern Ireland election will be confirmed soon.
But in a statement on Friday morning, Mr Heaton-Harris said he had listened to concerns about the impact and the cost of an election at this time.
“I can now confirm that no Assembly election will take place in December, or ahead of the festive season,” he said in the statement..
“Current legislation requires me to name a date for an election to take place within 12 weeks of October 28 and next week I will make a statement in Parliament to lay out my next steps.”
He added: “My objective, what the people of Northern Ireland deserve, is the restoration of a strong, devolved government.
“My duty is to create the right environment for the parties in Northern Ireland to work together to restore the devolved institutions and deliver on crucial issues impacting Northern Ireland’s people.
“I do not take this duty lightly, nor do I overlook the very real concerns people have around their cost of living.”
A DUP boycott of the devolved institutions, in protest at Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol, has prevented an administration being formed in the wake of the election result.
While the UK Government is now under a legal responsibility to call a fresh election within 12 weeks, it could amend legislation at Westminster that would either extend or remove that time limit.
The Government has vowed to secure changes to the protocol, either by a negotiated compromise with the EU or through proposed unilateral domestic legislation, the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which would empower ministers to scrap the arrangements without the approval of Brussels.
The European Commission has said the latter approach would breach the terms of an international treaty and potentially prompt retaliatory action.
Sinn Féin became the largest party at the Assembly for the first time in the May election, with 27 of the 90 seats.
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