By Jonathan McCambridge and Rebecca Black (PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to visit Northern Ireland on Monday amid a political crisis caused by the DUP blocking the election of a Speaker at Stormont, Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill has said.
The DUP leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, has insisted he is sending a “clear message” to the EU and the UK Government about resolving issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
But Ms O’Neill accused the unionist party of “punishing the electorate” while Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said it had been a “shameful day” for the DUP.
The failure to elect a Speaker leaves the Stormont Assembly unable to function.
The 90 MLAs met for the first time in the Stormont chamber on Friday after last week’s Northern Ireland Assembly election saw Sinn Fein emerge as the largest party for the first time.
The first order of business was for MLAs to sign the roll of membership before an attempt was made to elect a Speaker. Two candidates, Mike Nesbitt of the UUP, and Patsy McGlone, of the SDLP, were nominated but did not receive the necessary support.
The DUP is also refusing to nominate for the position of deputy first minister, which prevents the forming of a new executive, as part of its protest against the protocol.
Unionists oppose the post-Brexit treaty because of the economic barriers it creates between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Sinn Fein Stormont leader Ms O’Neill said the DUP has “punished the electorate” by boycotting the election of a speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and that “the public deserve better”.