Belfast Telegraph

Imperative 'intensive' talks resume: Prime Minister May rebuffs DUP plea for direct rule ministers

By Jonathan Bell

Prime Minister Theresa May has said it is imperative "intensive" talks aimed at restoring government in Northern Ireland resume, rebuffing a DUP plea for direct rule ministers to intervene in local affairs sooner rather than later.

She was responding to MP David Simpson who called for direct rule ministers to be appointed to take the "urgent decisions" required to keep Northern Ireland running.

The civil service has warned a budget needs to be tabled by the beginning of February for the forthcoming financial year.

"It is imperative government takes decision to appoint direct rule ministers as soon as possible, so a budget can be put forward to deal with this urgent problem," he told the Commons during Prime Minister's Questions.

"Decisions need to be taken, he said

However, the Prime Minister instead said it was "imperative" talks between the DUP and Sinn Fein resumed.

"We are committed to re-establishing a fully functioning inclusive devolved administration that works for everyone in Northern Ireland," she said.

"I don't underestimate the challenges that remain involved here but I do believe a way forward can be found and agreement can be reached.

"I would say it is imperative therefore for parties to re-engage in intensive discussion aimed at resolving the outstanding issues so the Assembly can meet and an Executive formed.

"We do realise,  however, we have a responsibility for stability and good governance in Northern Ireland and obviously our priority is on ensuring we can work with parties to re-establish the devolved government in Northern Ireland but we recognise a need to ensure Northern Ireland can continue to operate and public services continue to be provided."

Shameful

Later and in a statement, Mr Simpson said: “I am a committed devolutionist.  I want to see a local Executive.  Local Ministers, accountable to the people who elect them, are best placed to make decisions about Northern Ireland. We have been without a ministerial led government for 12 months.  This cannot continue.

"In devolved terms, 2017 was a wasted year. Key reforms and decisions impacting on our roads, schools and hospitals could not be made because Sinn Fein would not form an Executive.  It would be shameful if much of 2018 was to be similarly wasted."

The Upper Bann MP continued: "In recent days, many people and sectors have been outlining how they have been impacted by no Executive being in place.  We need decisions made therefore the Government should demonstrate it is prepared to appoint Ministers if devolution is not likely to be restored.

"The DUP stands ready to form an Executive today.  We have no redlines nor preconditions. It is time for SF to put the issues that matter to everyone in Northern Ireland ahead of their narrow political shopping list.”

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