The Northern Ireland political diary for 2023 is already filling up.
However there are a lot of ifs, buts and maybes about what lies ahead.
Public sector strikes are likely to provide the backdrop for the start of the year, with no sign of the Government backing down to nurses demands.
Meanwhile, the 19th January is the next deadline the Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris has set to get Stormont back up and running.
That deadline being met hinges on a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol between the EU and UK.
Latest reports are pointing to February for any progress on that.
It means the Secretary of State is very likely to set another 12 week deadline for 13th April.
This month will mark one year since the DUP withdrew from Stormont. Paul Givan resigned as First Minister on the 3rd February 2022.
If current indications are to be believed, February could bring a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol between the EU and UK.
The political headlines writers would enjoy a Valentine’s Day agreement.
The DUP would then need to decide if any deal on the Protocol is enough to return to Stormont.
If not, the Secretary of State will have to decide whether to call an election by 13th April.
If there was to be an election this month, it would take place with the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement looming in April.
In Westminster the Chancellor will set out his budget on 15th March.
Will the Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris set a budget for Stormont if it’s not back?
Or will he wait in the hope that it will be the first item of business for a new Executive?
This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State will want to avoid an election this month.
The extent of the Good Friday Agreement celebrations will hinge on whether Stormont is working.
At this point the recently appointed US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland Joe Kennedy III will have been in post for four months.
While his focus is expected to be on the economy and investment, his presence could help pave the way for a visit to Northern Ireland by US President Joe Biden.
But if there’s no Stormont, don’t expect a Presidential visit and it will be an awkward anniversary for everyone.
Local government elections are currently scheduled to take place on 4th May. It will be a chance for voters to elect councillors across Northern Ireland.
However, there’s a chance the elections could be rescheduled because they clash with the coronation of King Charles III.
The ceremony for the new monarch will take place on Saturday 6th May, with a Bank Holiday for everyone in the UK on the 8th May. It could overshadow any counting of votes.
If the local elections are moved, could a Stormont election take place on the same day? It’s something the Secretary of State may consider (depending on the state of play with the parties).
If there is a Stormont election in May, the start of the summer could bring a new Stormont Assembly.
There could be a new Executive with a new first minister and deputy first minister.
But if not, the local government elections would effectively be viewed as a referendum on the stance of the parties, the DUP in particular and any decision to stay out of Stormont.
If, as the 12th July approaches and there is still no Stormont, it would mean ongoing decision making for Northern Ireland at Westminster.
It would lead to serious questions about Stormont and devolution ever returning.
It would make the rest of 2023 very hard to predict …
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