Belfast Telegraph

Dodds proposes vote on returning to Stormont as Bradley delays election

Nigel Dodds
Nigel Dodds

DUP deputy leader leader Nigel Dodds has called on Secretary of State Karen Bradley to bring the Assembly together for a vote on returning to Stormont.

Mr Dodds was speaking after Mrs Bradley confirmed in the House of Commons on Thursday that the legal power to suspend Northern Ireland's Assembly was being extended until at least the end of August.

Northern Ireland has been without an executive since January 2017 when power-sharing between Sinn Fein and the DUP broke down.

Mr Dodds said the decision to push back any election was the "right thing to do in the circumstances, regrettable though it is".

"Could I suggest to her to do something a bit more radical, to take the initiative - what about calling the Assembly together? What about putting it up to the parties, who is prepared to go into the government now and who wants to sit outside?," the North Belfast MP said.

"Because my understanding is that four out of the five parties in Northern Ireland would go into government tomorrow.

"Instead of all the talk about wanting devolution, let's see who will actually vote for it."

Mrs Bradley said that she was working to bring the parties together, along with laying the groundwork for an eventual election.

"I am looking at what we can do over the next few weeks to get the parties together to start the dialogue to make sure when a talks process does start that it has the best possible opportunity of succeeding," she said.

Speaking on Wednesday, Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said her party would not give ground on an aborted power-sharing deal with the DUP agreed last February.

“Clearly we are not going to negotiate down from a position that you achieved last February," the Mid Ulster MLA said.

“But the issues that caused the collapse remain, the issues in terms of the delivery of rights remain, we need to see those delivered in order for it to be successful.

“We can’t have something that papers over the cracks, we have to have something that is real, that’s meaningful, that’s built on strong foundations and allows us to actually move forward and serve all of the people well on an equal basis, that actually deals with the fact that there is a lack of confidence now in these institutions and their ability to deliver.”

In the House of Commons on Thursday, DUP Strangford MP Jim Shannon also raised concerns over budgets in Northern Ireland and asked what steps Ms Bradley would take to enable "financial restrictions to be eased, including the confidence and supply monies that this party secured with your party".

Ms Bradley said the Treasury was releasing confidence and supply cash "as appropriate".

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd warned Mrs Bradley that she risks becoming "part of the problem" around Northern Ireland's political deadlock.

Tony Lloyd MP
Tony Lloyd MP

Mr Lloyd asked Ms Bradley to spell out how she plans to bring the parties back together, given there have been calls on her to resign after comments about killings by security forces during the Troubles.

He told the Commons the minister "has to be a figure of trust and authority".

"If she is not part of the solution she becomes part of the problem," Mr Lloyd said.

"I don't ever like to personalise politics but I've got to say to the Secretary of State that she's seen a massive haemorrhaging of trust in her role in recent weeks and months because of the inadvertent remarks that she uttered.

"But also because of the lack of energy in bringing the five parties together.

"Does she honestly believe she can regain the confidence of the five parties and the people of Northern Ireland to drive Northern Ireland forward?"

Ms Bradley hit back, saying she was very disappointed by his "tone" and she would continue to lay the work for elections to be held to Stormont, despite being forced into extending its suspension.

The Cabinet minister also criticised Mr Lloyd for being in favour of devolution but "he consistently undermines that position by demanding decisions are taken in Westminster".

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