Westminster committee urges May to take more active role in North

Committee urges early return to talks to restore Executive and Assembly

British prime minister Theresa May was urged by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster to take a more active role in Northern Ireland’s affairs until devolved institutions there are restored.  Photograph: EPA

British prime minister Theresa May was urged by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster to take a more active role in Northern Ireland’s affairs until devolved institutions there are restored. Photograph: EPA

 

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster has called on Theresa May’s government to take a more active role in the affairs of Northern Ireland until the devolved institutions there are restored.

In a report, Devolution and Democracy in Northern Ireland – Dealing with the Deficit, to be published on Tuesday, the committee also urges an early return to talks to restore the Executive and Assembly.

Karen Bradley is right to make restoring power-sharing devolved government in Stormont her first priority. However, while the political impasse continues the list of policy obstructions and project delays grows and becomes more serious,” committee chair Andrew Murrison said.

“We believe the Secretary of State is correct to insist that any decisions from Westminster align with the principles of the Good Friday Agreement. Helpfully, some GFA-compliant guidance already exists. For example, the Hart Report makes policy recommendations that were broadly welcomed across the community.

“Elsewhere, the Secretary of State will need to develop stronger ways of engagement and consider new measures to secure adequate scrutiny. Our recommendations include a committee system at Stormont as a temporary expedient pending restoration of the Executive.”

Consultation

Some members of the committee, including Labour’s Kate Hoey and the DUP’s Ian Paisley, have criticised the way the Belfast Agreement operates and the report calls for a consultation between London, Dublin and Belfast on how it might be improved. The report suggests that such a consultation should review how the power-sharing system works and if and how it should be changed.

“The Good Friday Agreement has had a transformative effect on Northern Ireland. However, its institutions have collapsed and even if restarted tomorrow would likely remain fragile,” Dr Murrison said.

“With the involvement and consent of the whole community in Northern Ireland, we have to consider if they can be more robust and how improvements can be made, as envisaged in the agreement itself. We must investigate every avenue to secure long-term stable government. For political stalemate to become the new normal is unthinkable and unacceptable.”