Newton Emerson: Westminster's indirect rule over the North is outrageous and barely lawful

Northern Ireland is continuing to suffer as a result of its bizarre political limbo

Northern secretary Karen Bradley is currently consulting Stormont parties on imposing a budget from Westminster, the third since powersharing collapsed. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Northern secretary Karen Bradley is currently consulting Stormont parties on imposing a budget from Westminster, the third since powersharing collapsed. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Northern Ireland must either restore devolution or return to direct rule. The present bizarre limbo simply cannot continue.

Northern secretary Karen Bradley is currently consulting Stormont parties on imposing a budget from Westminster – the third such barely lawful act of indirect rule since power-sharing collapsed. This budget will reportedly fall £410 million (€410 million) short of projected costs, equivalent to 4 per cent of departmental spending. The civil servants left in charge must plug the gap without ministerial direction. Their only guide will be the policies and programme for government left over from the previous executive, since when there has been an election, rendering the policies and programme invalid. Their only authority is a law rushed through Westminster last October, permitting them to make decisions “in the public interest” and under guidelines set by Bradley. This law was passed in response to legal challenges but it is doubtful it would survive further challenges.

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