A Year in Review: What’s happened in 202215 December 2022 - by Adam Newton
As we approach the end of 2022, it could be said that the more things change the more they stay the same with a real sense of déjà vu as to how we ended 2019. Nurses strikes, Brexit, and the lack of an Assembly and Executive are three of the key issues we again face today.
Although there may be a sense of gloom this winter, we did have the Assembly and Executive function for a period this year, which brought about much positive change. The introduction of soft opt-out organ donation legislation, a Climate Change Act, an Energy Strategy and a fully costed Cancer Strategy. It has been admirable that much of this work was carried out with the spectre of COVID-19 hanging over society.
This year we have seen the resignation of Paul Givan as First Minister; the introduction of legislation in Westminster to allow Ministers to remain in place for a period of time; 36 pieces of legislation receiving Royal Assent; and the long-awaited apology to victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse. We also had the sad news of the death of highly regarded DUP MLA Christopher Stalford, who was widely tipped to be a future Speaker or Minister within the Assembly.
The Assembly election in May produced the result that many of the polls had been suggesting, with Sinn Féin returning as the largest party, retaining their 27 MLAs. But the election did produce some surprises with the DUP not fairing as badly as anticipated, the Alliance surge continuing as they took over the ‘middle ground’, and the lack of an increase in the number of TUV MLAs.
The election was particularly bruising for the SDLP, with their former Deputy Leader Nichola Mallon missing out in North Belfast, and the UUP coming back in reduced numbers. This election also saw the loss of both Green Party MLAs, with former party leader Clare Bailey losing out to the Alliance Party’s Kate Nicholl.
Following the election, Ministers remained in post until 28th October, with John O’Dowd taking over the Infrastructure portfolio. While Ministers were curtailed in what they could introduce there were some significant announcements including the allocation of funding to vital health services, investment in net-zero public transport, the continued roll out of the Energy Strategy action plan and the publication of the Fiscal Council report on public sector finances and capacity.
And while it has not been smooth sailing for the Assembly, Westminster has been equally as rocky. We enter the New Year having been through three Prime Ministers, four Chancellors, and three Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland, you could be forgiven for thinking there hasn’t been much time for the regular politics.
Additionally, the Secretary of State has introduced legislation which will reduce MLA pay from 1st January, outlined the budget allocations for local departments and significantly, has produced guidance for the decision-making processes for civil servants. This legislation will ensure decisions which are in the public interest can continue to be taken and departments will be able to function.
As we enter 2023, it is hoped we will enter a more settled political landscape but there will still be challenges ahead. Next year will see the 25th Anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, local government elections and Leo Varadkar taking over as Taoiseach. Though as ever with politics there is sure to be a few more twists and turns along the way.