Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Office hiring strategist to break logjam at Stormont

Some of those at the We Deserve Better protest at Stormont calling for MLAs to get back to work
Some of those at the We Deserve Better protest at Stormont calling for MLAs to get back to work
Others at the We Deserve Better protest outside Stormont on Saturday
Jenny Kirkwood and Joe Paparella (8) from Bangor
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

The Northern Ireland Office is seeking a senior strategist who will work to restore devolved government here.

The incoming deputy political strategy director will lead efforts to resolve the two-year impasse.

A job advert for the post, which carries a salary of up to £117,000, says applicants must be able to work in a "politically charged environment".

The successful candidate will be based in Stormont House or the NIO's London office.

They will replace the current deputy director, who is moving to another position within the department.

The Stormont administration has not functioned since January 2017.

The Executive collapsed over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal, with a series of talks to restore the institutions stalling amid disagreements between the DUP and Sinn Fein on issues such as the Irish language and dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

On Saturday hundreds of people gathered at Stormont to protest over the ongoing stalemate.

The NIO job advert said the successful applicant will support meetings between political leaders in Northern Ireland and the UK and Irish Governments.

It involves "leading work to restore the Northern Ireland Executive (and) developing policy proposals to address outstanding issues".

It calls for candidates who can demonstrate an "excellent understanding" of Northern Ireland's political and constitutional system and who can deliver on important objectives in a "politically charged environment". The salary range for the post is between £68,000 and £117,000.

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey has called on Secretary of State Karen Bradley to challenge the main political parties about their willingness to participate in talks to restore devolution. He said Northern Ireland is "politically rudderless" at present.

"This has been allowed to run on far too long and the Secretary of State has responsibility in this," he said.

He urged Mrs Bradley to get a process started without delay.

Around 200 demonstrators braved wintry weather in Belfast on Saturday to call on Assembly Members to "get back to work", expressing anger at the almost £9m paid in wages to MLAs during the two years since power-sharing collapsed.

At the #Back2Work protest, workers in the health and education sectors set out the worsening impact of the political deadlock in stark terms.

One of the event organisers, Gareth Burns from Kircubbin in Co Down, said the public had already established that they "deserved better", so now they were "demanding better" from their MLAs.

Mr Burns said Brexit was not an excuse for inaction, and added: "We are saying we want to see the MLAs in the Assembly tomorrow, because public services need it and the growth and prosperity of Northern Ireland needs it as well."

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