Belfast Telegraph

Bradley 'has now a moral duty to start running the country'

Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The Secretary of State has been accused of "fiddling while Rome burns" for seeking greater public appointment powers in the absence of an Executive.

Karen Bradley has put regulations before Parliament which would allow her to make appointments, including that of Northern Ireland Attorney General.

But former NI Commissioner for Public Appointments Felicity Huston told the BBC Mrs Bradley had a "moral and constitutional duty to start running the country".

Ms Huston said: "It will be seen as a bit of 'fiddling while Rome burns', not hard government.

"A few decisions about a few public appointments is not what people need: they need serious stuff or an Assembly back.

"People will not understand why she's doing these things, public appointments are not complex.

"This is not hard government she has taken on."

The power to appoint the Attorney General lies with the First and Deputy First Ministers under devolution, and John Larkin's contract is due to expire in May. When approved by Parliament, the regulations will allow Mrs Bradley to reappoint an Attorney General, Children and Young People's Commissioner, as well as members of the Victims and Survivors Commission.

TUV leader Jim Allister said Ms Huston's criticisms "are more than justified".

He said: "The first duty of government is to govern. The clue is in the name. Yet, under Karen Bradley's rudderless tenure of Hillsborough Castle we have seen nothing but inaction and platitudes about restoring a system of failure."

Mr Allister said it was obvious that Stormont was not returning soon. "So, after two years, it is time for the appointment of British ministers and the taking of necessary decisions. It is time we were governed," he said.

"A question of pride in not wanting to admit the failure of Belfast Agreement devolution is no excuse for leaving the people of this part of the UK bereft of government. Get on with it Mrs Bradley."

The NIO said restoring devolution remained an absolute priority for the Secretary of State.

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