Belfast Telegraph

Karen Bradley introduces Northern Ireland budget with vow for more decisions to come

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Karen Bradley has introduced a bill at Westminster to set the Northern Ireland budget for the current financial year, with the government vowing to make further interventions.

Northern Ireland has been without government for the past 18 months and successive secretaries of state have resisted introducing full-blown direct rule in order to tackle the growing list of decisions ministers are required to take.

On Wednesday chief constable George Hamilton outlined his frustration working in a political void.

In an update Downing Street stressed it was committed to restoring power-sharing and was "continuing to work intensively" with all the parties but will do what's necessary to ensure "good governance". It said MLAs would continue to be briefed on work

A statement said: "That is why the Secretary of State has introduced in the House of Commons the Northern Ireland Budget Bill for the 2018-19 financial year and why the UK Government is considering further action to address pressing public appointments in Northern Ireland.

"The Government will make further legislative interventions which may be required to ensure good governance."

It added: "We will ensure that our commitments on major infrastructure spending, including the York Street Interchange road project and the broadband investment programme, agreed alongside of the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party, are able to be taken forward so that the people of Northern Ireland benefit from the increased investment agreed in June 2017.

"The Government is determined to ensure Northern Ireland benefits fully from this additional expenditure. In the period ahead we will ensure that Members of the Legislative Assembly during the impasse continue to receive updates on the work of the departments in Northern Ireland as well as preparing for the return of devolved government.

"We recognise the value in ongoing consultation with Northern Ireland’s democratically elected representatives."

DUP leader Arlene Foster welcomed the intervention.

She said: "People working in our schools, hospitals, community sectors as well as the construction sector need decisions made.  They will also welcome this.  

"Sinn Fein’s refusal to enter the Executive is causing havoc in our public services. Simple decisions are being left in limbo.

"Nigel Dodds and I will be meeting the Prime Minister on Monday to discuss these matters further.  It is not tolerable for public services in Northern Ireland to suffer further."

She added: "We look forward to the Government taking forward its commitment to consult with the locally elected politicians on the work of the Northern Ireland departments and in respect of forthcoming public appointments.”

DUP Parliamentary Leader Nigel Dodds MP added: "Sinn Fein object to decisions being made in London but yet they continue their triple boycott of the Assembly, the House of Commons and the Executive. Whilst others play politics we will continue to use our influence to shape the decision-making that matters to Northern Ireland.

"We will continue to work with the Government, through our agreed arrangements, for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom and look forward to welcoming the Prime Minister to Northern Ireland in the coming weeks.”

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