The sitting hasn’t been called because there is a realistic prospect of electing a Speaker. It’s been called because some parties prefer grandstanding in the Assembly chamber to engaging with unionists and resolving the problems which are holding up the full restoration of the Assembly and Executive.
They will tell us that they recognise the protocol's problems yet have opposed every single proposal put forward to resolve them. They will tell us that the answer is yet more negotiations with the European Union yet sidestep the fact the EU have refused to give their chief negotiator the mandate to negotiate on those very issues. Most fundamentally they will wilfully ignore that the Northern Ireland Protocol is fundamentally incompatible with the very agreement we were told it exists to protect.
It is poignant that the Assembly will meet just a day after it gathered to pay respects to Lord Trimble. He recognised the damage inflicted by the Northern Ireland Protocol both on our constitutional position and on the foundations of power sharing. Writing less than two months ago he noted that what he described as “the community-splitting protocol” doesn’t command support from any unionist representative in Northern Ireland. From that he posed the question:
“How does anyone expect the Assembly which is based on decisions being made by consent to function”
If parties that have championed the protocol were focused on progress rather than publicity stunts they would reflect on that question as the MLAs gather at Stormont.