Belfast Telegraph

Do your jobs so I can do mine, Bradley tells Stormont MLAs

By David Young

The Secretary of State has voiced frustration that she cannot focus on her job promoting Northern Ireland due to the need to sort out the problems left by local politicians.

Karen Bradley said instead of opening doors for local businesses overseas, she was having to do work that should be done by Stormont ministers, such as passing a budget for the region's rudderless public services.

Mrs Bradley told a business breakfast event in Belfast she was jealous of her counterparts in Scotland and Wales.

"They have stable devolved government locally and that means they can go around the world promoting the places they represent at cabinet, and I can't do that because I have to come and try to sort out problems here," she said.

Mrs Bradley was addressing a gathering of entrepreneurs in the city's regenerated docklands.

She later said: "My frustration is the missed opportunities and how much more successful we could be.

"I want to be off promoting Northern Ireland, because I don't want to be doing a budget, and I have to do a budget because we haven't got a devolved government at Stormont.

"That's the frustration for me and it's a frustration for people here. Because they can see the UK Government can really open doors for them, but the UK Government can't do that if the UK Government is doing the job someone else should be doing."

Mrs Bradley and the Republic's deputy premier Simon Coveney are to engage in a series of bilateral meetings with the Stormont parties next week as they bid to find a way to resurrect the faltering negotiations to end the 15-month power-sharing impasse.

"I genuinely believe there are people in all the parties, in leadership in all the parties, who really do want to make this work," Mrs Bradley said.

"We can't wait, we can't sit back and say it will happen one day and we will just manage until then.

"We can't let Northern Ireland limp along, we have to get this right and we have to get those MLAs back up in Stormont in an Executive with an Assembly holding them to account."

Mrs Bradley is currently examining a range of proposals to inject some fresh momentum into the stalled process, including the establishment of a form of shadow Assembly to scrutinise decisions taken in Westminster while the political impasse is ongoing.

"All the parties have said that they want to go back into government," she said. "I have spoken to them all, they have all said they would like to continue to speak, to continue to talk, they are all looking at the different options.

"I am looking at all of those, it would be wrong of me not to, but I've got to find that thing that works for everyone."

Mrs Bradley said she hoped this week's events to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement would reinvigorate the process.

"The inspiration we have all had from the events of the last two days really is a kickstart again for people to recognise just how important this is and what having a functioning devolved government has brought to Northern Ireland and what more it could bring," she said.

Belfast Telegraph

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