A Tory attempt to throw DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson a political lifeline with the temporary restoration of ‘double jobbing’ has failed in the face of the united opposition of the other Assembly parties.
British officials had proposed an amendment to the “Northern Ireland Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern Bill” which is currently passing through the House of ‘Lords’ at Westminster.
It was seen by both nationalists and unionists as an attempt to change the rules of the upcoming Assembly elections on Donaldson’ behalf.
The bill provides for largely technical changes to Stormont regulations, as agreed in under the 2020 ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal. The amendment would have also allowed Westminster MPs to once again take up seats in the Stormont Assembly, without losing their seat in the London parliament.
‘Lord’ Jonathan Caine, who tabled the amendment, claimed it would boost the “stability” of Stormont against potential electoral change.
The return of the ‘dual mandate’ would have allowed Donaldson to contest the May 5 elections while also remaining MP for Lagan Valley at Westminster, avoiding a tricky parliamentary by-election. Donaldson must win election to the Assembly in order to take up the role of the North’s First Minister.
The move would also have benefitted the DUP by allowing its relatively well-known MPs to feature on the ballot paper for the election.
The change was spiked after the leaders of six of the North’s political parties wrote a letter to the British prime minister warning against the plans. The British government admitted that the “strong views” of a majority of Stormont’s parties was behind its last minute decision to pull the proposal.
Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill described the attempted manoeuvre as a “disgraceful interference in the democratic process and the upcoming Assembly election”.
“It was roundly criticised and rightly opposed by the majority of parties,” she said. “It proves yet again that the DUP are out of step, and the Tories out of order.”
Meanwhile, in another significant election development, the Irish Republican Socialist Party have are announced that they are to contest the Stormont Assembly election for the first time.
Dan Murphy has been selected by the party to stand in the upcoming elections in the West Belfast constituency.
In a Facebook post, Mr Murphy said these were “historic times” for the Irish Republican Socialist Movement and he was very proud to be playing his part.
“For the last number numbers of years the IRSP have been non stop in dealing with various issues facing the people of West Belfast, doing our upmost in challenging those in power and those that would exploit our communities,” Mr Murphy said.
“We have a chance now to put a radical voice into the halls of Stormont that will stand up for the people of West Belfast.”