Alliance and SDLP back SF bid to recall Stormont assembly amid Omicron boom

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The Alliance Party and the SDLP have backed a Sinn Féin bid to recall the Stormont Assembly over the latest COVID-19 surge.

Pat Sheehan has submitted a recall motion for legislators to look back early to discuss reopening schools amid rising cases of Omicron editions in Northern Ireland.

He said Education Minister Michelle McIlveen should present a clear plan to the House for legislators to return to school.

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

Earlier this week, Ms McIlwain said her priority is to keep children in school and added that her department continues to liaise with the health department as well as schools on COVID concerns.

Stormont Education Minister Michelle McIlwain (Liam McBurney / PA) , PA Archive

Mr Sheehan said: “The priority for all should be ensuring that our schools can function safely and that staff, children and parents are protected.

“The Omicron version and rising cases are adding to the pressure on school staff.

“The education minister needs to come to the assembly to come out with a clear plan for coming back schools that puts the safety of pupils, teachers and parents first and deals with pressure on school staff as infection rates rise.”

The assembly is to return after the holiday on January 17.

It can be recalled from leave on a resolution signed by 30 members or at the request of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister.

The Alliance Party and the SDLP have indicated that they will support the bid, which will reach the required 30 members.

SDLP legislator Daniel McCrosson described a “critical situation developing in schools”.

“I have reiterated the concerns expressed to me by the school leaders and parents and despite several warnings nothing has been done to de-escalate the situation in the schools,” he said.

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