Stormont Assembly to be recalled over Omicron surge

·2-min read
Speaker Alex Maskey confirmed that a sitting of the Assembly’s plenary would take place on Monday (Peter Morrison/PA) (PA Archive)
Speaker Alex Maskey confirmed that a sitting of the Assembly’s plenary would take place on Monday (Peter Morrison/PA) (PA Archive)

The Stormont Assembly is set to be recalled early from its Christmas recess to discuss the Omicron surge.

It follows a recall motion submitted by Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan, which was backed by SDLP and Alliance Party members.

On Thursday, Speaker Alex Maskey confirmed that a sitting of the Assembly’s plenary would take place at noon on Monday.

Education Minister Michelle McIlveen, pictured, needed to set out a clear plan for schools returning, Sinn Fein’s Pat Sheehan said (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Archive)
Education Minister Michelle McIlveen, pictured, needed to set out a clear plan for schools returning, Sinn Fein’s Pat Sheehan said (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Archive)

MLAs would debate a motion around the opening of schools amid the recent record-breaking wave of Covid-19 cases.

The motion expresses “serious concern at the lack of planning” by Education Minister Michelle McIlveen.

It calls for the minister to “urgently develop a plan that puts the safety of pupils and staff first, through the installation of air-monitoring and air-filtration devices in all classrooms”.

It also calls for staffing shortages to be addressed by “utilising and deploying additional teaching capacity to keep schools open and safe”.

Teachers’ unions have warned that the return of children to the classroom will lead to a further increase in transmission and that members had concerns about contact tracing as well as staffing levels.

Earlier this week, Ms McIlveen said that her priority was to keep children in school and added that her department continued to liaise with the Department of Health as well as schools over Covid concerns.

Mr Sheehan welcomed the plenary sitting and urged Ms McIlveen to address MLAs.

“I welcome confirmation that the Assembly will be recalled to discuss the need for schools to reopen safely and the extra pressure faced by school staff as a result of rising Covid-19 infection rates,” he said.

“The Education Minister needs to come to the Assembly on Monday and set out a return-to-school plan which puts the safety of pupils, teachers and parents first.”

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