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Alternative to Stormont devolution worth revisiting

Published 15/10/2015

It is perhaps apposite that, on the first day of the House of Commons sitting since its return following the summer recess, MPs should debate the current political situation at Stormont, in a debate initiated by Danny Kinahan, the Ulster Unionist MP for South Antrim.

As I watched the debate live on the Parliament Channel I was saddened but not surprised that for all that MPs in all parties and none kept alluding to the need to keep the Stormont show on the road, they still show little sign of knowing anything about the background to or the possible alternatives to devolving legislative powers to Stormont.

I despair. As an Englishman by birth but an Ulsterman by adoption, I will not mourn a further prorogation of Stormont if that is what the current crisis precipitates, to hopefully concentrate minds on securing a democratic alternative to the permanent compulsory coalition government which has effectively abolished free elections and subverted the democratically expressed wish of the greater number of people in Northern Ireland since 1998.

There is an alternative, which was proposed by former Ulster Unionist Party leader Jim Molyneaux as far back as 1978 and subsequently written into the 1979 Conservative general election manifesto, which stated: "In the absence of devolved government, we will seek to establish one or more regional councils with a wide-range of powers over local services."

Thirty-seven years on, the Molyneaux formula for sound administrative devolution (without power-sharing) still offers the way forward for devolving the execution and application of legislation to and the provision/purchase of local services by democrats in all parties without sabotaging either the democratically expressed wish of the greater number of people in Northern Ireland or Northern Ireland's constitutional position as an integral part of the United Kingdom.

CHRISTOPHER LUKE

Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Belfast Telegraph

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