Assembly recall now confirmed for Monday

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

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 6th January 2022, 5:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th January 2022, 5:13 pm
Michelle McIlveen
Michelle McIlveen

It follows a recall motion submitted by Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan, which was backed by SDLP and Alliance Party members. To recall the Assembly, at least 30 MLAs must give their approval. Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance combined hold 45 seats.

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

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.

Submitting his recall petition earlier this week, Mr Sheehan said: “The Education Minister needs to come to the Assembly to set out a clear plan for schools returning which puts the safety of pupils, teachers and parents first and deals with the pressures on school staff caused by rising infection rate.”