Last Thursday, the people of Northern Ireland went to the polls to choose their elected representatives. The results of that election were confirmed on Sunday 8 May 2022.
I want to offer my congratulations to all those who were elected and encourage the parties to form an Executive as soon as possible. The people of Northern Ireland deserve a stable and accountable devolved Government that delivers on the issues that matter most to them.
Earlier this year, the Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern) Act passed through Parliament. That legislation provides for a period of up to 24 weeks after an election for Northern Ireland’s political representatives to restore the devolved institutions. During this time, Northern Ireland Ministers in post before the election who were re-elected can remain as Ministers to support the delivery of public services.
I met with the leaders of the five largest parties in Northern Ireland on Monday 9 May and urged them to restore a fully functioning Executive and Assembly at the earliest possible moment, starting with the nomination of an Assembly Speaker. An Executive will only be formed if Sinn Fein nominates a First Minister and if the DUP nominates a deputy First Minister. The two roles are joint and equal, with neither office holder able to exercise functions or make decisions without the other.
The Northern Ireland protocol remains a barrier to stability in Northern Ireland and the Government will do whatever it takes to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement in all its dimensions. We are clear that the protocol does not have the support of many in the Unionist community and is not working for many people and businesses in Northern Ireland. We have to address the outstanding issues and we want to do that by agreement with the EU, but as we have always made clear we will not shy away from taking unilateral action if necessary.
Furthermore, while Unionism is set to remain the largest designation in the Northern Ireland Assembly with 37 seats, followed by Nationalism on 35 seats, parties which designate as neither will now constitute 20% of the Assembly. This is a significant development in Northern Irish politics and its implications are the subject of growing discussion and debate.
Together, we must move forward towards a brighter future. That means a strong, functioning Executive delivering for all the people of Northern Ireland. My priority is to provide the space for an agreement to be reached.