Northern Ireland will later this month have been without a government for longer than Belgium, which currently holds the world record of 541 days. But Belfast is set to miss out on official recognition of this dubious accolade due to a technicality.
Ever since the Northern Irish government collapsed at the beginning of 2017 following a scandal over a clean energy scheme, there has been a political vacuum in Belfast that no-one has been able to fill.
So much time has passed that Northern Ireland has nearly eclipsed Belgium’s peacetime world record stint of no governance, which the EU member set back in 2010-2011, with Belfast’s 526 day effort (10 August) rapidly catching up to the current 541-day-benchmark.
But Guinness World Records, the body that evaluates and awards everything from tallest skyscraper to longest fingernails, has ruled that Northern Ireland is not eligible to wrest the accolade from Brussels.
That is because during the last 500+ days since a 2 March 2017 snap-election failed to yield an outright winner, there has been some form of governance in place, as the central UK government in Westminster is still able to pass laws.
“While the Northern Ireland Assembly has the power to make legislation relevant to the area, it is still limited with regard to certain powers and the Westminster parliament is technically still able to pass laws,” a Guinness World Records spokesperson told the BBC.
Due to the somewhat unique political landscape of the UK, it would be the same case for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments in Edinburgh and Cardiff, respectively, which enjoy different degrees of devolved law-making.
Protests are planned at the end of August in Belfast, as Northern Irish citizens begin to lose patience with their politicians, which look no more likely to bring an end to the stalemate any time soon.
Belgium smashed the previous record-holder, Iraq, which went 290 days without a government in 2010.