Amidst the uncertainty there is one certainty: An Election is Coming06 January 2022 - by Anna Mercer
As we start 2022, there are many uncertainties in the year ahead. How hard will Omicron hit our struggling health service? What next for the NI Protocol? Can legislation be progressed and implemented on key issues such as Climate Change, Organ Donation and the Budget to name a few? One thing we can be certain of however is that there will be an Assembly election, held on or before 5th May 2022.
Following the restoration of the power-sharing Executive and Assembly in January 2020, the prospect of an election was never far from the thoughts of the parties. However, the arrival of COVID on these shores little more than a few weeks after a deal was announced in New Decade, New Approach saw attention diverted to a collective effort to protect the health service, economy and wellbeing of wider society.
However since the “new normal” became the normal, relationships between the five party coalition have increasingly come under pressure. The impact of Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol has seen party positions galvanised, culminating in the boycott of DUP Ministers at North/South Ministerial Council meetings. Add in to this the disagreements on introducing new restrictions for COVID-19 and the relationships have been stretched close to breaking point.
While an Assembly election is due to be held on 5th May, there remains the possibility that events may overtake. With the majority of parties having named candidates, and a ratcheting up of rhetoric, withdrawal from the Executive of either the DUP or Sinn Féin could prompt an election earlier than scheduled.
However, with many important Bills still to reach their conclusion, COVID still looming large in the background and the Budget still to be set, is it in anyone’s interest to force an early election?
While this seems an uncertain start to the New Year, the certainty is an election is coming.