General Election puts Stormont programme for government in ‘jeopardy’

The General Election will make it very difficult for the Stormont Executive to publish a programme for government ahead of the summer recess, First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.

Ms O’Neill told MLAs that the Executive Office was receiving legal advice on whether it would be possible to publish the document before July 4.

Ms O’Neill and deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly had previously said they expected to produce the governmental plan before the summer break.

However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak surprised many when he called a General Election for July 4.

During ministerial question time, Matthew O’Toole, the SDLP’s Stormont leader, asked when the full programme for government would be produced.

Ms O’Neill said the Executive had published its legislative programme and budget, ahead of the full programme for government setting out Executive priorities.

She added: “Unfortunately the election has been called towards the end of last week and the early advice that both the deputy First Minister and myself are receiving is that it is going to be very difficult to publish a programme for government now in the midst of an election campaign.

“But we are exploring that somewhat further because we were determined to try to get it out the door to complement the budget and the work of the legislative programme.

“We will keep the house updated in terms of the legal advice we are getting.

“The purdah period kicks in and makes it very difficult to do certain areas of work and the programme for government appears to fall under that category, but we’ll keep people posted.”

She added: “I think just in terms of the programme for government itself, we are all desperate to get our programme for government out the door, we are all desperate to get that in place.

“We will seek further advice to see what is possible in this space but unfortunately with the election being called it puts that in somewhat of a jeopardy in terms of being able to deliver it before July 4.”