Belfast Telegraph

Dublin's 'joint authority' over NI ruled out

By Noel McAdam

The Government has ruled out 'joint authority' with Dublin over Northern Ireland.

Lord Dunlop told peers it would be "incompatible" with Northern Ireland remaining a full part of the UK.

Lord Dunlop, a Northern Ireland Office Under-Secretary of State, also said the Government intends to "leave no stone unturned" in re-establishing the Assembly and Executive after the March 2 election. His comments came at question time in the House of Lords, after Conservative peer, Lord Lexden, asked for reassurance that the Irish Republic would not be given any enhanced role and there would be no moves towards joint authority.

Lord Dunlop said Northern Ireland remains a full part of the UK, and any form of joint authority would be incompatible with that principle.

He said the Government is "fully committed to the Belfast Agreement, including the principle of consent governing Northern Ireland's constitutional position".

"It is on that basis that Northern Ireland is, and remains, a full part of the UK, and clearly any form of joint authority would be incompatible with the consent principle," he said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said if the parties in the Assembly fail to piece together a devolved administration, there could be no return to direct rule with London-based ministers in charge of the region.

Former Secretary of State, Peter Hain, accused the Government of being "hands off, rather than hands on, during this escalating crisis."

"Clearly, the parties, since their relations have deteriorated so terribly, are not going to sort this out on their own, even after an election. It's vital that the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister convenes meetings, whether summits or other gatherings, to bring the parties together and that they do so with the Taoiseach as well."

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