Northern Ireland Secretary sets deadline of this Friday for the Executive to be up and running

Meetings today between the Secretary of State and the main parties here but still there is no deal. However, the Assembly is due to meet on Wednesday - will the speakers be elected?

Today the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, has outlined his position after holding talks with the main politicial parties at Hillsborough Castle.

There is already a deadline of this Thursday, the 18th January, for the Executive to be restored. If it hasn’t been restored by then, the Secretary of State is required to call an election.

These talks come as a major public sector strike will take place on Thursday, including teachers, health workers, nurses, police staff and civil servants.

Today I have met representatives of the main Northern Ireland political parties to discuss why it is important an Executive is restored before the clock ticks past 18th of January.

As you know, at that point, a duty falls upon me to call an election and I will need to decide on various other important matters that require primary legislation in Westminster.

In my meetings today I emphasised it is now 23 months that the people of Northern Ireland have been without the locally-elected politicians they voted for, taking the decisions needed to tackle the issues faced by people and businesses across Northern Ireland.

And I outlined the generous financial package offered to the parties before Christmas, worth over £3 billion, that is currently available from day one of a reformed Executive.

A financial package which provides solutions to many issues raised by the parties, including money that would enable a restored Executive to give public sector workers a pay award.

I also emphasised that the Windsor Framework talks with the DUP had effectively concluded. I’m pleased to say that we were able to make some further progress last week, and today I have urged all the parties to take the next step and form an executive. It is hard to see any barriers whatsoever to stop this from happening as soon as possible.

The people of Northern Ireland deserve to have the people they voted for, working for them.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen strikes across Northern Ireland’s public sector over pay and I know more are planned for Thursday. 

The industrial action taken by the unions will disrupt the lives of many people across Northern Ireland.

Public sector pay in Northern Ireland is devolved.This is properly a matter for locally-elected politicians who are best placed – and I quote others here – “to tackle the unprecedented challenges confronting citizens…public services, particularly the immediate matter of public sector pay today” in Northern Ireland.

If an Executive has not been reformed by Friday, then, as I say, I will have various decisions to make and I will set out my next steps in due course.

To end, I do believe that all the conditions necessary are now in place for the political representatives of Northern Ireland to govern on behalf of the people who elected them.

It is time for talking and debate to finish. It is time for Stormont to get back to work.

– Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris

The Assembly has been recalled and will meet on Wednesday 17 January at midday, and attempt to elect a speaker and deputy speaker. If they are not elected, all eyes will be on Chris Heaton-Harris to see what he does after the deadlines passes.

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