Northern Ireland crisis: Is Stormont’s power-sharing system at risk?

Donaldson: We need action in Northern Ireland

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Northern Ireland’s first minister has resigned in protest over the Northern Ireland Protocol. The move puts the Assembly of Northern Ireland in jeopardy just months ahead of a crucial election – with fears high that the administration could unravel within weeks.

What is happening in Northern Ireland?

First Minister Paul Givan announced his resignation on February 3 as part of the DUP’s protests against the Northern Ireland protocol.

The DUP forms part of NI’s government, which is made up of five parties designed to promote compromise between unionist and nationalist factions in NI.

His move will also force his Sin Fein deputy Michelle O’Neill out of office.

READ MORE: Whitehall thrown into chaos by Northern Ireland row

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said his resignation serves as a message to the UK government of the growing crisis in Belfast.

Mr Donaldson said: “I have withdrawn the first minister on the basis that the protocol issues have not been addressed, despite clear commitments and promises given by the prime minister [Boris Johnson] that they would be addressed.

“Clearly if the protocol issues are not resolved by the time of the election, then of course it is difficult for us to form a government.”

The crisis is unfolding over the much-maligned Northern Ireland protocol, which allows goods to be delivered between the Republic and North without checks at the border between the two.

Instead, checks take place when goods arrive from the island of Britain at ports in NI – which has become known to many as an “Irish Sea border”.

DUP and Unionists do not want a de facto border between the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland and want the protocol to be removed after ongoing talks between the UK and EU.

The Irish nationalist side of the community broadly opposed Brexit but support the protocol as the only way to prevent more disruptive checks on the border with the Republic.

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Why is it causing a crisis?

Mr Givan’s retreat from power, backed by his party, makes it impossible for other Executive ministers, who for now retain their positions, to take any key decisions.

DUP leader Mr Donaldson said: “In the absence of a functioning Executive, an early election must be called.

”We can do so much better than this chaotic theater.

“Power-sharing can work, but only if parties are committed to it.”

But UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis, who has the power to set a speedier election date, offered no hint he was prepared to throw Northern Ireland into early election mode.

Instead, he appealed to the Democratic Unionists to refill the first minister’s chair “immediately.”

He said in a statement: “I will be speaking to the leaders of the five parties of the Northern Ireland Executive, and the Irish Government, to encourage a return to stable devolved government in Northern Ireland.”

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