Belfast Telegraph

Peers approve emergency powers to extend Stormont talks on powersharing deal

The Bill gives politicians in Northern Ireland a three-week window after June's General Election to form a new executive
The Bill gives politicians in Northern Ireland a three-week window after June's General Election to form a new executive

Emergency powers to give Stormont's rowing political parties more time to strike a powersharing deal have now cleared Parliament.

Peers followed the example of MPs in backing a Bill that gives politicians in Northern Ireland a three-week window after June's General Election to form a new executive.

It allows Westminster to set and collect rates to fund local council services, as well as paving the way for future legislation enabling MPs to set a budget in Northern Ireland if no executive is formed after the latest round of talks.

But it came amid warnings from peers that the current model of government in Northern Ireland is not sustainable and claims politics in the country is now only a new way to fight old wars.

Northern Ireland minister Lord Dunlop said: "The continuation of strong and stable devolved government is what people voted for in large numbers in the recent Assembly elections.

"It's what they expect, it's what they deserve and we must not let them down.

"So protecting the interests of the people of Northern Ireland is at the heart of this simple three clause Bill.

"A Bill designed to ensure that every opportunity is given for an executive to be formed."

Lord Dunlop added: "The Government is clear that the restoration of devolved government remains achievable and remains the absolute priority.

"That will require more time and more focused engagement by the parties on the critical isues that remain"

"This gives the best possible opportunity for restoring a strong, stable and inclusive devolved government."

The Bill was approved by MPs on Monday.

Opposition spokesman Lord McAvoy said it was "regrettable" the legislation was needed, but backed the interim provisions.

He said: "We accept and support this approach, which is measured and will give space for progress to be made and for an execiutive to be formed."

Lord McAvoy said the current situation was "not desirable and is not sustainable".

He added: "We have achieved far to much to move backwards now."

DUP party chairman Lord Morrow said: "I am doubtful, extremely doubtful, if the form of government that we have is sustainable in the future.

"I'd like to be proven wrong, and I'd be happy enough if I am, but I say that most sincerely."

Crossbench peer Lord Eames, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said plans to address legacy issues in Northern Ireland were "taking us into a minefield", adding: "The minefield has not altered.

"It has deepened, and we're not finding new mines - we're finding ways of discovering the old ones, and putting a different colour on them, and putting a different emphasis on them, and hearing other voices talking about the same mines."

He added: "Someone said to me the other day, the mother of one of our security forces who was murdered during our Troubles, she said we have simply answered the violence of the IRA and the loyalist groups by simply saying let's see how we can split the political process and make it another way of fighting the war.

"That is a devastating indictment of where we are - another way of fighting the war."

Lord Empey, a former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said there was "a high level of incompetence" in the last administration at Stormont.

He added that Northern Ireland was "not in the races" in terms of having its say on Brexit, as well as cautioning that the likes of Gerry Adams were not as committed to the institutions at Stormont as Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's previous deputy first minister in Northern Ireland.


From Belfast Telegraph