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Karen Bradley accused of passing buck with introduction of new laws

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Karen Bradley

Karen Bradley

Photopress Belfast

Stormont

Stormont

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Karen Bradley

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley faced criticism yesterday as she handed new powers to civil servants in a bid to keep Stormont running.

All the parties bar the DUP accused Mrs Bradley of hiding behind a "smokescreen" and of "legislating away her responsibility".

But Arlene Foster said the blame lay with republicans.

"Sinn Fein should end their boycott, they should come back into the Assembly and allow us to make the decisions that matter to the people of Northern Ireland," she said.

Party colleague Gavin Robinson MP also put the blame on Sinn Fein.

"This limited measure is in no way a substitute for democratically elected representatives making decisions in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

But Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy blasted Mrs Bradley's new legislation.

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"Faced with the prospect of a court-ordered election, the British Government has taken this step in order to avoid the embarrassment of a judge instructing them to give citizens their democratic rights," he said.

"It is a hugely retrograde move, which undermines the democratic process by preventing citizens from electing public representatives.

"Those are not the actions of a Government which is genuinely set on a resolution to the political crisis and a restoration of power-sharing."

He added that the Conservative Party had put its "toxic pact" with the DUP above fundamental democratic rights.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mrs Bradley was "spending her time bringing in legislation to afford civil servants more power, yet has done next to nothing to arrange a talks process with the intention of getting an Assembly up and running".

He added: "It is time Karen Bradley injected some urgency into the process and stopped allowing the DUP to dictate to her."

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey was equally scathing of the development.

He said the priority should be restoring Stormont institutions to make key decisions on health, education, housing and infrastructure.

"There needs to be ministers in place rather than this smokescreen for failure to deliver a political solution that is acceptable to the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

And Alliance leader Naomi Long said: "The Civil Service taking decisions is not in any way equivalent to politicians driving change through committees, departments, the Assembly and the Executive.

"This Bill allows for urgent intervention, but for Northern Ireland to function properly, we need more than just a sticking plaster on what is a broken leg.

"The only effective and sustainable solution is for local politicians to step up and do the job they were elected to do."

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew accused Mrs Bradley of letting Westminster "legislate away her responsibilities".

"Karen Bradley is looking to absolve herself of the big decisions that she can and should be taking," he said.

"Effectively, she's taking those big decisions out of her 'in' tray and shuffling them across to unelected civil servants."


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