The UK Government have announced an extension to the period for Executive formation to allow time and space for NI parties to work together to return to government as Protocol discussions continue between the UK and EU.
The existing period for Executive formation under the terms of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation Act) 2022 came to an end at midnight on 19th January 2023.
The new Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, which was introduced on February 9th now extends the period by a year to 18th January 2024, while retaining the power to name an election date any time during the period,
This placed the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris, under a legal duty to hold an Assembly election within 12 weeks but, having spoken to political representatives, businesses, and communities in Northern Ireland, he concluded that another election at this time would not be the best course of action.
The following day Mr Heaton-Harris hosted NI party leaders at a roundtable in Belfast to urge them to restore the Executive as soon as possible. He commented;
“Over a year has passed since the then-First Minister of Northern Ireland resigned. Twelve months and one Assembly election later, it is disappointing that people in Northern Ireland still do not have the strong devolved government that they deserve. The restoration of the Executive, in line with the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, remains my top priority. I will continue to do everything I can to help the Parties work together to make that happen.”