‘No choice’ but for Irish government to step in to Stormont stalemate – Stephen Farry

Stephen Farry said Dublin will be part of a plan B for governing Northern Ireland after a legal deadline to restore devolution here passed on Friday.

The DUP has blocked devolution’s restoration since early 2022.

Pressure has mounted on the party to back a new deal, resulting in a meeting on Friday – but no decision was made when its 12 party officers, including leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, met

It’s led to reports of increasing frustration in the Government.

Speaking on Sunday Politics SDLP MP Claire Hanna urged the Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, to set out his plans following the outcome of the DUP’s meeting on Friday.

“We have enormous pressing concerns in public services, and in people’s faith and belief in politics and it’s important that the Secretary of State sets out where this goes,” said the Belfast South MP.

“He was due to give a statement [on Monday], I think the DUP carry on will probably push that back slightly, but they should not be given the power. I think it suits ditherers to have the power to to keep everybody in holding pattern and people, the rest of the population, have needs as well.”

Also on yesterday’s episode of the BBC politics show, Alliance Party’s Stephen Farry backed calls for the Secretary of State to unveil next steps, but said they would likely not go far enough.

“The basic problem here is that the DUP have been given the power to hold the rest of society to ransom through this misuse of the veto,” said the North Down MP.

“I fully accept there’s checks and balances in the Good Friday Agreement, but it was never designed to stop the whole system from functioning, and that’s where we’re at.

“So rather than looking at other areas where he can maybe apply pressure, [the Secretary of State] needs to apply pressure directly on what’s actually the core of the problem here.”

Ms Hanna called for “reforms to the Good Friday Agreement” adding that proposals put through the House of Commons had “consensus” and could be picked up by Heaton-Harris “quite quickly”.

Last month the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee made a series of recommendations, backed by SDLP and Alliance, for a major shake-up of how Stormont operates.

The committee recommended a two thirds ‘supermajority’ should be used to elect first and deputy first ministers and the speaker.

MPs also suggested that the first and deputy first minister roles should be rebranded and open to politicians from beyond the largest unionist and nationalist parties.

The DUP said that the proposed changes were “trying to undermine” the party’s position to the Irish Sea border.

Speaking on the programme the SDLP MP said: “We have reformed the Good Friday Agreement for better and worse at different times, including over the heads of some of the parties. So there are ways to reform it.

“We have laid bare just how deep the wounds in our public services are and how limited our abilities and our levers are to create the kind of change that people want and the ambitions that people have for their lives and for their families.

“And again, the longer the DUP keep us locked in this cage, the more intense that discussion will get.”

This follows news that DUP party officers weren’t asked to make a decision during a meeting on Friday, amid reports that the party remains divided on a return to Stormont.

Speaking about the mood in Westminster, editor of Politics Home, Adam Payne, said that there was increased “frustration” over the DUP’s position.v

Mr Payne said that sources within the UK government had said there was no more room for negotiations on the substantive issues of the Windsor Framework.

He added that the looming general election has changed priorities for the Conservative government, which is now focused on closing Labour’s lead in the polls.

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