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UK admits reality of impasse in Northern Ireland and pushes back election ‘deadline’ to 2024 – Reuters

BELFAST – The British government on Thursday admitted effective defeat in its effort to quickly coax Northern Ireland’s politicians into a new power-sharing government, pushing back the date for the region’s next assembly election by a year. full year in 2024.

Thursday’s concession to reality capped months of stark but increasingly implausible statements from Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, who initially claimed his hands were tied and a quick new election was inevitable after the collapse of the region’s intercommunal government in October. .

A series of legislative amendments followed, extending the supposed deadlines in six-week increments. All of these micro-movements were presented as calibrated in one way or another to persuade the Democratic Unionists to end their obstruction of government formation at Stormont.

But the DUP – publicly committed to sabotaging Stormont until its demands for changes to post-Brexit trade rules are met – have not budged an inch in the face of Heaton-Harris’ threat of a quick re-election. in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Talks between the UK and the EU on reforming the trade protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement for Northern Ireland look set to make a breakthrough soon. But the proposed compromises may well fall short of the DUP’s key demands, leaving Stormont’s stalemate untouched.

“Having considered my options and having engaged extensively in Northern Ireland, I know that an election in the coming weeks will be neither helpful nor welcome,” Heaton-Harris said in a statement released as he presented new amending legislation that would alter his current election. “deadline” of April 13 by 52 weeks.

Heaton-Harris said the move would “give the parties more time to work together and get back to government.”

He noted that the revised rules, which had to pass all stages of the House of Commons by February 22, would mean he would no longer be legally obliged to set a new date for an election to the Assembly of Ireland. du Nord until January 18, 2024. Under this new arithmetic, if the DUP hadn’t caved by then, the vote itself would not have to take place for 12 weeks, until April 11, 2024.

Should such an election occur, it would effectively relaunch the May 2022 vote which the Democratic Unionists narrowly lost to their Irish Republican rivals Sinn Féin. Far from fearing such a vote, DUP leaders told POLITICO they would relish a second chance in hopes of regaining at least some of that lost ground.

Sinn Féin currently holds 27 seats in the mothballed assembly, the DUP has 25. The largest party is entitled to the premiership, a premiership, a post long held by the DUP and never held by Sinn Féin.

But few political calculators, including within the ranks of the DUP, see a clear path for the Democratic Unionists to regain their previous position as the largest assembly party. In the event that the DUP equalized the number of seats, Sinn Féin would still hold the likely tiebreaker with a higher share of the popular vote.

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