Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland secretary Bradley urged to take control as MPs warned vacuum threatens Northern Ireland peace

By Dan O'Donoghue

The Northern Ireland Secretary faced pressure from Labour last night in the House of Commons and told not to "be squeamish" about direct rule.

Karen Bradley was also warned by the DUP how Westminster's disinterest in the past led to violence - and could do so again.

Urging the Government to take action to make decisions in the absence of Stormont's power-sharing Executive, former shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Smith said that ministers had been guilty of an "extraordinary, spectacular level of inactivity".

And he warned that "kicking the can in the distance" would no longer work.

Mr Smith also said "we effectively have direct rule, or at least direct rule-style decisions".

He added: "We run the risk that the apathy that many have talked of in Northern Ireland does harden into cynicism and on this side of the Irish Sea it hardens into longstanding disinterest, now that cannot be allowed to continue.

"I say to both the minister and the Conservative governing front bench, and indeed to my own Labour front bench, that one of the lessons of history we need to learn, if we've got in effect direct rule we cannot afford to be squeamish about calling it direct rule, even those of us who are devolutionist in this place must accept that at some point enough will be enough."

In apparent contradiction of his Labour colleague, shadow Secretary of State Tony Lloyd said that "it needs to be made crystal clear... that this is not part of creeping direct rule".

"It is important that we establish the point that this is not part of creeping direct rule," Mr Lloyd added.

However, Sammy Wilson of the DUP pointed out "a contradiction in his argument, because he then said that we were moving towards a crisis, and that there must be pressure for action".

"He was right. There are decisions that need to be made, and we need a process for that."

Mrs Bradley was asked by North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon if the Government intended to appeal a decision over the Hightown incinerator.

In May a High Court judge ruled that a senior civil servant did not have the power to grant planning permission for a £240m waste treatment centre and incinerator in Mallusk. The Court of Appeal last week dismissed a bid by a Stormont department to have that overturned.

"We are considering the position," Mrs Bradley told Lady Hermon. During the debate on the Northern Ireland Budget (No 2) Bill, DUP MP Ian Paisley warned that violence and division could return to the streets of Northern Ireland in the absence of Stormont or direct rule from Westminster.

The North Antrim MP said: "I was always taught the purpose of history and the study of history was to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. One of the mistakes of the past in the Fifties and Sixties was that this place became disinterested in what was happening on the ground in Northern Ireland, and we know then what happened.

"If we don't learn from that past we will repeat by the disinterest of this place what happened then."

Belfast Telegraph

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