SDLP proposes changes to Speaker election to unblock Stormont logjam

matthew o'toole Assembly

The SDLP is proposing changes to the process for the appointment of a Speaker in an attempt to clear the political logjam that has prevented the return of the Northern Ireland Assembly after elections held in May last year.

SDLP Assembly Leader Matthew O’Toole will raise the party’s proposal to amend the rules governing the election of an Assembly Speaker to allow for a two thirds majority with other parties and the Secretary of State during roundtable talks.

The move, which would still require nationalist and unionist support for a candidate for Speaker, would prevent one party abusing Stormont rules to maintain the suspension of the institutions.

Matthew O’Toole MLA said:

“Progress in the negotiations between the European Commission and the British Government on the operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol this week are clearly welcome and should provide a basis for political generosity from all parties in Northern Ireland.

“Unfortunately, it appears highly likely that the DUP will continue to prioritise its cynical party-political wrecking strategy which has left people here without a functioning Assembly or Executive since last year - at least for the foreseeable future. That approach simply isn’t good enough when thousands of people can’t get a hospital appointment, when families across our communities are struggling to keep the heating on and they need help from their elected representatives.

“That is why the SDLP is proposing a change to the process for the election of an Assembly Speaker that will end the one-party veto that has frustrated the mandates of every other MLA and frustrated the democratic wishes of the people of Northern Ireland. A Speaker should instead be chosen by a two thirds majority of MLAs which would require support from nationalists, unionists and others. This can be achieved quickly with agreement for the UK government to legislate at pace.

“Politicians cannot stand by while our health service collapses, while public sector workers endure pay regression and while inflation hurts hard working homes across our communities. We have a moral obligation and a political mandate to address these challenges. It is time for all parties to get back to work.”

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