Sinn Féin table motion to recall Assembly as DUP slam 'terrible' congressional visit

Sinn Féin are to table a motion that would recall the Assembly in a bid to elect a Speaker and a First and deputy First Minister.

So far the DUP boycott over the Protocol means the Assembly hasn't been able to function. 

Sinn Féin’s motion is likely to gain the 30 votes necessary to pass and force an Assembly recall, but this is unlikely to lead to the resumption of business at Stormont.

The DUP are unlikely to have changed their position on electing in the past two weeks as they have not indicated that the Government's announcements on the protocol are enough to have the party re-enter Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government. 

Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan says an Executive must be formed now “to put over £420m in the pockets of workers and families”.

It comes as Downing Street says it has no plans to scrap the Protocol, but will instead work to fix those issues causing political instability in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, US Congressman Richard Neal, who's leading a trade delegation looking at Brexit issues, has been in Londonderry.

He he says he's optimistic the Protocol row can be resolved.

"The commission in the European Union suggested these problems were imminently solvable and I think, based on the conversations we had of good faith and good trust, that's the case," he said.

Mr Neal has drawn criticism from unionists during his visit, first by referring to the Protestant Unionist community as "planters" and then by suggesting the row over the NI protocol was "disproportionate" and "manufactured".

DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has slammed the visit as "terrible" and accused Representative Neal of "either an incredible lack of understanding or a dangerous willingness to misrepresent reality."

In a statement released ahead of meeting the congressional delegation on Thursday morning, Sir Jeffrey described Rep Neal's comments as "outrageous" and suggested the Representative for Massachusetts's 1st Congressional District had "adopted a Sinn Féin narrative".

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Neal said: "I also referenced the historical term 'the Gael' - 'the Gael and the planter' - because those are entirely accurate historic references."

The delegation will meet with all of the five main NI parties on Thursday as they seek to promote the resumption of the power-sharing government and the resolution of the Protocol row.

During her own visit to Northern Ireland on Wednesday, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that the UK wasn't seeking to "scrap" the protocol, but rather wants to "fix" the issues with it that are impacting on the Good Friday Agreement.

Ms Truss's counterpart in Ireland, Simon Coveney TD, took exception to the idea that the protocol violates the Good Friday Agreement on Wednesday.

The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister accused the UK Government of pushing "disingenuous" and "dangerous" claims to this end.

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