Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Bradley's flying visit wasted opportunity

Editor's Viewpoint

The political stalemate at Stormont took another surreal twist yesterday when a meeting between the parties and the Secretary of State lasted 45 minutes.

While Karen Bradley was keen to point out that the meeting was convened to brief the parties on the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018, which is aimed at giving civil servants greater decision-making powers in the absence of devolved government, the local politicians who attended were totally underwhelmed at the outcome.

There was a feeling among the smaller parties - the SDLP, Alliance and Ulster Unionists - that there would be some indication of how she intended to kickstart talks on restoring devolution.

When that did not materialise they rounded on her in quite angry mood and said that the prospect of meaningful talks now appeared further away than ever.

It was noticeable that the leaders of the two big parties did not attend, instead sending representatives.

Their comments afterwards were very predictable - the DUP blaming Sinn Fein for collapsing the institutions and the continuing political stasis, and Sinn Fein pointing the finger at the British Government for inaction and ignoring the will of a significant part of the electorate here.

It is not clear at the time of writing why Mrs Bradley had to leave so abruptly.

It would have been excusable if there was some pressing vote in the House of Commons which required her attendance, given the Government's paper thin majority.

She might also claim that there was important constituency business that demanded her attendance.

Of course, Mrs Bradley works to an agenda set by her officials, and those who drew up her calendar were ill-advised to pencil in such a short meeting.

Many political observers have drawn unflattering comparisons between recent Secretaries of State and previous incumbents of the post such as Mo Mowlan, who pursued a peace deal while battling cancer, or Peter Hain, who introduced several reforms here while simultaneously holding down a similar post for Wales.

This Secretary of State is fortunate to have a functioning constituency in England to return to every week while the people of Northern Ireland see their public services wither on the vine through political inaction.

Belfast Telegraph

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