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'Fragile' Stormont must focus on people's needs: report

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Trust: Simon Hoare MP

Trust: Simon Hoare MP

Chris McAndrew / UK Parliament (

Trust: Simon Hoare MP

The implementation of the New Decade, New Approach agreement can only succeed with a sea change in working cultures at what is currently a "fragile" Stormont, a Northern Ireland Affairs Committee report has said.

Recent events, such as the political fallout over the funeral of Bobby Storey, have also exposed how at risk the Executive is at being "blown off course", it warned.

The report, published today, also concluded that it is imperative for all parties to "focus on the needs" of the people of Northern Ireland, as well as challenging the Government to set out a long-term plan to mitigate the negative economic impact of the pandemic here.

The deal was set to lead to a transformation in public services and infrastructure improvements, but the £2bn funding package earmarked to meet the commitments of the agreement is widely regarded to fall short of what is needed.

Simon Hoare MP, chair of the NI Affairs Committee, said the agreement should "bring people together to deliver" in order to restore public faith in the Executive.

"Recent events have exposed the fragility of the Executive by showing that it doesn't take a scandal of the magnitude of RHI to blow devolution off course," he said.

"The repercussions of Covid-19 notwithstanding, meeting the commitments enshrined in New Decade, New Approach is the only way to restore trust in the devolution settlement and its ability to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland, who have been ill-served by stagnating public service provision for too long.

"All parties, the Executive, UK Government and Irish Government must work constructively to meet their commitments to forge a better future for Northern Ireland and to nurture healthy devolved governance.

"The UK Government must provide a realistic and long-term financial plan that recognises the challenges imposed by coronavirus."

Mr Hoare stressed, however, that "no amount of money" can make the agreement work without the implementation of a "more productive working culture" at Stormont. "To restore trust, the implementation of New Decade, New Approach will require regular monitoring and review," he added.

The report also insisted that the stability of power-sharing rests on all parties' commitment to "working within the spirit and the letter of the rules" to maintain the devolved institutions.

Meanwhile, it recommends that the Independent Fiscal Council, which is due to be established this summer to oversee the Executive's revenue streams, should operate completely independently, as well as being adequately resourced.

The committee is now urging all parties to focus on the needs of the people of Northern Ireland, who it says, have been "ill-served" by the Executive's collapse.

"There should be no excuses for failure. We cannot sleepwalk into another Executive collapse, because the people of Northern Ireland deserve more," added Mr Hoare.

Belfast Telegraph