Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland has been been failed by its political class

Editor's Viewpoint

By the end of this month Northern Ireland will have set an unenviable - some might say scandalous - record. On August 29, we will have surpassed the 589 days that Belgium went without a functioning government.

That begs the question, who is running the province as it freewheels towards even greater chaos?

Sinn Fein and the DUP gained huge votes in the last Assembly election in the expectation that they would seek to restore devolution.

Instead the will of the people has been blatantly ignored as the political stasis shows no signs of ending.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said she has no knowledge of any efforts to get formal inter-party talks under way in the autumn. She has made the task of gaining any agreement even more unlikely by saying that her opposition to a stand-alone Irish Language Act - a key Sinn Fein demand - is non-negotiable.

So if the parties are not in charge, is Secretary of State Karen Bradley prepared to run the province or introduce direct rule? So far she has taken a non-interference approach, merely issuing platitudes saying the Government is prepared to do everything possible to restore devolution.

That appears to include bribing MLAs by ignoring independent advice to start cutting their wages, a fact that rankles with the public.

The courts have already made it clear that civil servants cannot make the sort of major decisions normally taken by ministers, so that rules them out of the equation.

Look at the mounting problems. Health service reforms are stalled because of the absence of a minister to devise and sign off policy.

Brexit negotiations are reaching a crucial stage. A vague policy document on farming after Brexit has been published but again vital information is missing because there is no minister.

One third of companies here say Brexit is having an adverse effect.

On the streets, 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement, thugs have forced families out of their homes in north Belfast with apparent impunity and only ritual censure.

The political stand-off and toxic atmosphere is depressing. Northern Ireland and its problems are being ignored by the political class.

Gaining extra funding, which the DUP has achieved to its credit, is put to naught by the absence of an administration to spend it. This cannot continue indefinitely.

Belfast Telegraph

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