The Democratic Unionist Party has faced further criticism from the other parties at Stormont after collapsing the power-sharing Executive, as party leaders met to see what legislation they can get through before Stormont breaks up for the May 5 election.
First Minister Paul Givan resigned last week as Northern Ireland First Minister as part of his party’s protest against the Northern Ireland/Irish Sea Protocol. As a result, because they share a joint office, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill lost her post.
Other departmental ministers will remain in post and legislation already started through the Assembly will continue. However, with no Executive able to meet, no new key decisions can be made.
Even when parties return after the election it is difficult to see how a new Executive can be formed. DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said that he would not re-enter government if issues around the Protocol have not been addressed.
Speaking to the BBC he said: “If the Protocol issues are not resolved by the time of the election, then of course it is difficult for us to form a government because of the instability that the Protocol creates.”
Other parties have been scathing of the DUP decision to collapse the Executive.
SDLP Deputy leader, Nichola Mallon, said: “The DUP drama has been concocted by Jeffrey Donaldson as a last desperate attempt to resuscitate their flagging poll number ahead of an Assembly election in May. We’ve come to expect shameless stunts from the DUP, but putting ordinary people in the firing line is unforgivable.
“What message does this send to thousands of people on hospital waiting lists? What does it say to parents desperately trying to get additional support for their children? The selfishness is astounding.”
Next month, Mr. Givan and Michelle O’Neill were due to make a public apology to the victims of institutional abuse in children’s homes in Northern Ireland. That will not now take place.
Ms. O’Neill said: “While the DUP must bear responsibility for that, I am also very conscious that those of us who are serious about showing responsible leadership and delivering for people can and should seek to salvage what we can from the chaos the DUP have caused.”
Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey said it is his intention to progress as much legislation as possible in the short time ahead.