DUP LEADER JEFFREY Donaldson has opted to cede his freshly won seat in the Stormont Assembly and remain a member of the UK Parliament.
Donaldson was elected last weekend but said he would remain an MP until issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol of the UK’s Brexit agreement with the EU are resolved.
He had eight days to co-opt a replacement.
Northern Ireland’s Chief Electoral Officer confirmed today that Emma Little-Pengelly has been elected in the Lagan Valley constituency after Donaldson resigned from the seat he never took.
The Northern Ireland Assembly is due to have its first sitting tomorrow following an historic election result which saw Sinn Fein become the first nationalist or republican party to top the poll.
The DUP said it will not nominate ministers until the UK Government acts over issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
And if the party decides to block the election of a Speaker it will essentially prevent the Assembly from carrying out any business.
Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill has again urged the DUP to enter a new Executive.
Speaking at the Balmoral Show in Lisburn, Co Antrim, Donaldson said his team of MLAs will attend Stormont tomorrow to sign the roll.
“We are committed to making the political institutions work but we’re also clear that we need to see decisive action by the Government,” he said.
Asked whether his party will nominate a speaker, he said: “Our Assembly group will meet and come to final decisions on all of this tomorrow morning.
“The Assembly meets tomorrow morning and parliamentary protocol determines that the first people to know are the people who actually sit in an Assembly, therefore we will make our position clear on this.
“We recognise that these issues need to be dealt with. As a party we have been decisive, we have made our position clear and will continue to do so.”
O’Neill said there is no reason for a new Stormont speaker and Executive not to be formed tomorrow.
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“Our Assembly will sit tomorrow; all parties should turn up, all parties should nominate and we should have an Executive up and running,” she told the media during her visit to the Balmoral Show.
“There is no reason for that not to happen and it is not acceptable or not good enough that the DUP won’t turn up or won’t nominate for the position of Speaker or the title of First or deputy First Ministers.
“The public here that I’ve been speaking to today want an Executive, want an Assembly. They want it working for them, they want money in their pockets to deal with the cost-of-living crisis and we can do all of that whilst trying to make the smooth implementation of the protocol.
“We will not be held to ransom by the Tory government, their internal fights between their own members. We are all being held to ransom here and that is not acceptable.”
Additional reporting from Press Assiciation