Northern Ireland secretary to hold talks with Stormont party leaders

Northern Ireland Secretary To Hold Talks With Stormont Party Leaders
Chris Heaton-Harris is to meet Sinn Féin, the DUP, Alliance and the UUP on Tuesday. Photo: PA Images
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Rebecca Black, PA

Britain's Northern Ireland secretary is to hold talks with the Stormont parties following the collapse of the Assembly.

Chris Heaton-Harris had been expected to call a fresh election on Friday after the deadline for the parties to form a new executive passed.


According to current legislation he must call an election within the next 12 weeks.

Earlier, Sinn Féin's Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill and DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson gave opposing viewpoints in separate interviews.

Stormont meeting NI Civil Service
Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill has criticised the DUP (David Young/PA)


Ms O’Neill blamed the DUP for refusing to work with the other parties, and said they do not want to re-enter the executive with the first non-unionist First Minister.

Sinn Féin emerged as the largest party at Stormont for the first time following the last Assembly election in May.

But Mr Donaldson defended his position and urged the UK government to address unionist issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, which he said would allow his party to re-enter government.

He denied Ms O’Neill’s claim and said that for his party, it is about the union, rather than who will be the next First Minister and deputy First Minister.


Meanwhile, talks continue between the UK government and the European Commission to address issues around the protocol.

In a statement on Sunday evening, Mr Heaton-Harris confirmed he will meet Ms O’Neill and Mr Donaldson as well as Alliance leader Naomi Long and UUP leader Doug Beattie on Tuesday.

He described these meetings as being planned to “discuss next steps”, including how he will ensure public services continue to run, protect the public finances and consider options on MLA pay.


Mr Heaton-Harris is also to meet Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney later in the week.

Northern Ireland Assembly election 2022
Britain's Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris is meeting party leaders (Brian Lawless/PA)

He reiterated his disappointment that an executive was not formed.

“The duty to call an election is not one I bear lightly, and I will be outlining to the parties that the people of Northern Ireland deserve a strong and accountable government,” he said.

“In the meantime, I will work tirelessly to protect the interests of the citizens of Northern Ireland.

“There are a number of things I could do, including taking action on MLA pay, which I know many people feel is deeply unfair while the Assembly is unable to function fully.

“I am also concerned by the issues within the Stormont budget and will address these urgently with my officials and those from the Northern Ireland Civil Service.”

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