Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster urges end to decision-making ‘limbo’ in Northern Ireland

A Stormont department said it would end its legal battle against curbs to its powers following the collapse of devolution.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has called on the British Government to end decision-making “limbo” in Northern Ireland after officials said they would not appeal against a court judgment seriously limiting their powers.

In May, a Belfast High Court judge ruled that the permanent secretary of Stormont’s Department for Infrastructure did not have the power to grant planning permission for a £240 million waste treatment centre and incinerator at Hightown Quarry in Mallusk, Co Antrim.

The decision had been made in the absence of a minister following the collapse of Stormont powersharing and the department confirmed on Monday it would be taking its legal appeal no further.

Mrs Foster, whose 10 pro-Brexit MPs prop up Theresa May’s minority Government at Westminster, said: “The limbo of decision-making in Northern Ireland can no longer be ignored.

“The refusal by Sinn Fein to restore devolution means that local ministers cannot take decisions so action must be taken at Westminster.

“The decision not to appeal… should be a siren for the Government to take action.”

The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland this month dismissed a bid by the department to have the lower court’s judgment overturned.

The final recourse was the Supreme Court but that option has been rejected.

The Department for Infrastructure said: “The department has studied the Court of Appeal ruling on 6 July and will not appeal the judgment.”

There have been no devolved ministers since March last year following the collapse of the Assembly that January.

Stormont’s nine government departments have since been led by senior civil servants.

The Department for Infrastructure appealed against the High Court verdict in a bid to provide clarity over officials’ powers to govern following the collapse of devolution.

Sinn Fein, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) welcomed the decision not to take the matter further.

Sinn Fein Assembly member Declan Kearney said: “Key decisions such as this demonstrate again the importance of re-establishing the powersharing institutions in a way that is consistent with the Good Friday Agreement.

“There is an onus on both governments to fulfil their responsibility as co-guarantors of that agreement, to deal with the outstanding equality and rights issues at the heart of the political crisis.”

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon said: “The question for the DUP and Sinn Fein is how long are they going to continue to deny the people of Northern Ireland a government that will take decisions in their interests and end this dangerous drift?”

UUP Assembly member Steve Aiken said politics was in paralysis.

“At the moment we are in a no-man’s land between devolution and direct rule which is having dire consequences for public services as no decisions can be taken.”

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