Belfast Telegraph

Time to end Northern Ireland 'decision-making limbo' says DUP's Foster - Bradley says options being considered

Doubt over extent of civil service powers after court ruling

The Northern Ireland Civil Service's decision not to appeal a Supreme Court judgement preventing the development of the Mallusk incinerator "should be a siren for the British Government to take action," DUP leader Arlene Foster said.

The Department of Infrastructure on Monday confirmed it will not seek to overturn a ruling that it had no legal power to approve the £240m waste incinerator in Co Antrim without a minister in place. The ruling has cast major doubt as to who has authority to take decisions in Northern Ireland in the absence of an Executive at Stormont.

In the wake of the decision Northern Ireland Secretary of State Karen Bradley said she was considering her next steps but said it reinforced the need for talks aimed at restoring the devolved institutions.

Ms Foster said: “The limbo of decision-making in Northern Ireland can no longer be ignored.

"There are fresh examples arising virtually daily where people in Northern Ireland are suffering because decisions cannot be taken. They range from school building projects to public sector pay through to reforming how our healthcare operates."

Northern Ireland has been without devolved government since January 2017 when Sinn Fein pulled down the institutions.

"The refusal by Sinn Fein to restore devolution means that local ministers cannot take decisions so action must be taken at Westminster. Sinn Fein’s boycott of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Executive and Westminster cannot be allowed to hold back progress for everyone.

"This is not about wishing to see a return to Direct Rule but about the people of Northern Ireland needing decisions taken so they are not punished for the refusal to restore devolution.”

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Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley will be among those attending a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in London. Victoria Jones/PA.

While visiting Derry, the Secretary of State was questioned on the civil service decision not to challenge the court's ruling.

"We've been looking carefully at the decision because judgements like this are not just as simple as 'you can do this and you can't do that', you've got to look underneath it," Mrs Bradley said.

"We are looking at what we need to do as the UK Government. We've never shied away from taking decisions that need to be taken.

"I think it reinforces more than ever that what we actually need is political dialogue going on here, we need the parties talking to each other, we need Government back in Stormont so that the people of Northern Ireland have the Government they rightly deserve and elected.

"We have been clear throughout that the decisions that need to be taken, need to be taken at Stormont. It is a very disappointing judgement in terms of the fact that it does put this into doubt.

"Decisions that civil servants have taken - maybe they feel they can't take them any more. I pay tribute to them for what they have done - working without direction is a very difficult and testing thing.

"What we need to see is those politicians in Stormont making the decisions. I've brought forward two budgets since I've become Secretary of State, I've already committed that I'll legislate for public appointments to make sure we have a properly constituted police force for example.

"We will take the steps that we need to take but the real focus has to be on getting political talks up and running and getting that Government back into Stormont."

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