The British government has further postponed a scheduled Assembly election for a year after hardline unionists successfully lobbied to avoid a reckoning with the Six County electorate.
Both Sinn Féin and Aontú condemned the latest delay, with Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín describing it as an “outrageous” suspension of the democratic process.
The move will push the timetable for the reformation of the Executive and/or Stormont Elections back by almost a year to January 2024.
Sinn Féin said the British government was “legislating for further drift”. Party leader Mary Lou McDonald said there was a “real danger” of more drift amid the political deadlock.
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said it is “intolerable in a democracy” that elected representatives would be prevented from doing their job.
“It takes a special type of arrogance for a political party to delete the democratic rights of all citizens on the basis of their own narrow political objectives. It takes a certain type of arrogance to expect to get paid while doing nothing,” he said.
“It’s damaging to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who are in desperate need in the north. It’s also dangerous because it send out the message that democratic politics does not work”.
Some commentators have suggested the delay could be a first step towards the complete scrapping of the Six County legislature as unionists continue to resist the historic election of a Sinn Féin First Minister.
There is growing pressure for reform to end the ability of a single party to collapse powersharing or prevent a Stormont Executive being formed.
“The Irish Government and the British Government are the guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement. The truth is they are not guaranteeing anything,” Mr Tóibín said.
“It is now time to actively review and reform the legislation. We in Aontú are investigating the production of a Bill to deliver this reform. We urge other political parties to join with us to break the stalemate”.
Ms McDonald said it was “unacceptable” that the DUP is still preventing the formation of a new Stormont Executive and said British Direct Ruler Chris Heaton-Harris also expressed a “level of frustration” at a multi-party meeting in Belfast.
“He tells us that he wishes to see the institutions re-established, we are prepared to take him on his word,” she said.
“I have described the decision to set the election deadline back to January as legislating for further drift, I think that’s a real danger.”
Ms McDonald also warned there can be no return to direct rule if the powersharing institutions are not resurrected.
“We’ll be looking at a partnership arrangement, joint authority, between Dublin and London,” she said. “That’s the alternative and I think the DUP need to very soberly assess that prospect.”