WEST­MIN­STER IS POISED TO STEP IN, BRO­KEN­SHIRE WARNS

Belfast Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - BY SUZANNE BREEN

THE Sec­re­tary of State has warned that with­out a deal be­tween the DUP and Sinn Fein North­ern Ire­land is on a “glide path” to­ward greater West­min­ster in­ter­ven­tion.

James Bro­ken­shire said he still be­lieved an agree­ment to re­store power-shar­ing was pos­si­ble but if it didn’t hap­pen the Gov­ern­ment would have to step in and pass a bud­get next month.

Sinn Fein re­sponded by claim­ing that the ap­proach of “suc­ces­sive Tory Govern­ments” had con­trib­uted to the Ex­ec­u­tive’s col­lapse.

Speak­ing to busi­ness lead­ers at Queen’s Univer­sity, Belfast, last night, Mr Bro­ken­shire said: “If things don’t change we are on a glide path to greater UK Gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion. But I be­lieve we can change course.

“This can be achieved with po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship and with sup­port of the peo­ple of North­ern Ire­land — in­clud­ing com­mu­ni­ties and busi­nesses.

“There is much at stake. Risks, yes. But also so many op­por­tu­ni­ties, be­cause I firmly be­lieve in the huge un­locked po­ten­tial there is right across North­ern Ire­land.”

Mr Bro­ken­shire said lo­cal par­ties “must come to­gether and reach agree­ment in the short win­dow of time that re­mains”.

He stated: “If this does not hap­pen within a short num­ber of weeks, we risk greater po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing from West­min­ster — start­ing with pro­vi­sion for a 2017-18 bud­get this au­tumn.

“This is not what any­one wants and would pro­foundly be a step back, not a step for­ward.

“But in the con­tin­u­ing ab­sence of de­vo­lu­tion the UK Gov­ern­ment re­tains ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity for good gover­nance and po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity in North­ern Ire­land as part of the UK — and we will not shirk from the nec­es­sary mea­sures to de­liver that.”

The Sec­re­tary of State said “in­ten­sive di­a­logue” be­tween the DUP and Sinn Fein was on­go­ing.

“These dis­cus­sions have been con­struc­tive and I’m hope­ful that fur­ther progress will be made as they con­tinue,” he said.

“The is­sues re­main rel­a­tively small in num­ber and are clearly de­fined. But dif­fer­ence re­mains... ul­ti­mately we can­not force an agree­ment. That has to come from the par­ties them­selves.”

Mr Bro­ken­shire said it was in the in­ter­ests of “growth, pros­per­ity and the peo­ple of North­ern Ire­land” for power-shar­ing to re­turn.

“For nine months gov­ern­ment has ef­fec­tively been in the hands of civil ser­vants, rather than politi­cians who are rightly ac­count­able to the pub­lic for the de­ci­sions they make,” he said.

“This has meant there has been no po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tion to tackle the fun­da­men­tal chal­lenges fac­ing North­ern Ire­land, in­clud­ing the re­form and trans­for­ma­tion of crit­i­cal pub­lic ser­vices.

“We be­lieve in de­vo­lu­tion. It is right that de­ci­sions over ser­vices — like health, ed­u­ca­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment — are taken by politi­cians in lo­cally ac­count­able po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions.”

Mr Bro­ken­shire said he wel­comed “the grow­ing voice of busi­nesses, trade unions, the vol­un­tary sec­tor and oth­ers in stress­ing the need for the re­turn of de­volved gov­ern­ment”.

He told the as­sem­bled busi­ness lead­ers: “We all want to see the par­ties come to­gether and form an Ex­ec­u­tive.

“They need to hear from you about just how im­por­tant it is for you to see them work­ing to­gether for the good of North­ern Ire­land.”

He said restor­ing power-shar­ing would get “the de­vo­lu­tion of cor­po­ra­tion tax back on track to en­able North­ern Ire­land to cut its rates to at­tract in­vest­ment and jobs”.

Re­spond­ing to the Sec­re­tary of State, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Mur­phy last night said: “James Bro­ken­shire’s time would be bet­ter spent im­ple­ment­ing the as­pects of the agree­ments for which he has re­spon­si­bil­ity and act­ing with rig­or­ous im­par­tial­ity than threat­en­ing the talks process.

“The ap­proach of suc­ces­sive Tory Govern­ments in play­ing fast and loose with the agree­ments has con­trib­uted to the col­lapse of the Ex­ec­u­tive.

“They are part of the prob­lem and (must) act to fully im­ple­ment their com­mit­ments.”

❝ I firmly be­lieve in the huge un­locked po­ten­tial there is right across NI

PRESSEYE

Ju­lian Yarr, man­ag­ing part­ner, A&L Good­body; Richard McClean, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, In­de­pen­dent News & Me­dia NI; Janet McCol­lum from Moy Park; James Bro­ken­shire, Sec­re­tary of State for North­ern Ire­land; Mark Thomp­son, head of of­fice, A&L Good­body Belfast, and David El­liott, In­de­pen­dent News & Me­dia at the event

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