Belfast Telegraph

NI Secretary Julian Smith: 'No more excuses' for Stormont impasse

The Northern Ireland Secretary has told the region's rowing politicians there are "no more excuses" for failing to restore powersharing.

Julian Smith said public sector workers have stepped in for too long to fill the vacuum left by a lack of political leadership.

On a visit to Belfast, Mr Smith vowed to deliver a step change in flagging talks to resurrect devolution, as he expressed unhappiness at the pace of recent negotiations.

"Getting Stormont up and running has to be the priority," he said.

"Political parties across the spectrum must now realise that civil servants, police, hospital workers, nurses, doctors have for too long stepped in for a lack of political leadership and there are no more excuses - we just have to get this Assembly and Executive moving.

"All of the civil servants and public sector works I have met this week are really doing incredible work when actually they should be getting much more support from Northern Ireland political leaders."

Mr Smith held talks with Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney in Hillsborough, Co Down this week to discuss the impasse.

LIVE: Secretary of State Julian Smith statement

Posted by Belfast Telegraph on Friday, August 23, 2019

On Friday, he noted that a range of policies affecting the region - such as reforms to laws on abortion and same-sex marriage - would be introduced at Westminster in October if devolution was not restored by then.

"There has been activity throughout August but it has not been at the pace that I want," he said of the current talks process.

"If politicians in Northern Ireland do not grasp this opportunity there will be a whole range of policy areas being imposed as a result of the Bill that went through (Westminster), largely through free votes on a number of issues before this summer.

"I hope that over the coming days political leaders will come together and address the outstanding issues.

"The outstanding issues are important but compared to the issues of waiting lists, compared to the resource issues across the public sector, the decisions that need to be made, these issues can be dealt with and I just want to work with Simon (Coveney) to ensure that we put as much focus on getting Stormont up and running and that also allows local politicians to be deciding the future on these issues. Westminster shouldn't be deciding it. But we need to move now."

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