British ministers must step in soon as Stormont ‘drift’ cannot go on, DUP warns

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds

The DUP’s leader in Westminster has said “we cannot allow the drift to continue” at Stormont, and that British ministers may have to take control of Northern Ireland in the very near future.

Nigel Dodds said he would work with the UK Government and give politicians at Stormont a consultative role in order to maintain good governance.

The DUP’s deputy leader also blamed Sinn Fein for the failure to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland.

Mr Dodds said Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire was right to step in and set a budget for Northern Ireland, with talks to restore devolved government at an impasse.

“I would also say to him we cannot allow the drift to continue,” added Mr Dodds.

“That at some point in the very near future we will need to have ministers, and if they are not Northern Ireland executive ministers - which is what we want and other parties want, but Sinn Fein are blocking that - then it will have to be ministers from here.

“And they will have to take decisions, because we cannot allow the economy to drift and we cannot allow Northern Ireland to drift.

“We will work with them from here in this place to ensure that good governance of Northern Ireland continues, along with a role for Northern Ireland politicians in a consultative role back home at Stormont.”

Mr Dodds said Sinn Fein were now raising different issues before entering powersharing from those which initially collapsed the executive in December.

All the other parties at Stormont would set a devolved government up tomorrow but Sinn Fein were blocking it, he added.

“Let us get on with the job of governing Northern Ireland from Stormont, but if that isn’t able to happen then we must get on with the job from here in consultation with our politicians back home,” Mr Dodds said.

Mr Brokenshire said restoring devolution had to be the focus, adding: “That has to be the optimum outcome of seeing that locally functioning, locally elected assembly and executive serving the people of Northern Ireland.

“I would encourage him and his party to continue, I know, the efforts they have done over an extended period to find that way forward.”

Earlier Mr Brokenshire was challenged by SNP spokeswoman Deidre Brock over what was blocking progress in the talks.

“This is primarily about issues of sustainability in respect of the assembly and the executive, and also around issues of language, culture, identity and respect, those elements that I think underline the discussions that we have had over many weeks that it is important that those are got right, so that there is that sense of sustainability, that the executive can just get on with the job of serving for Northern Ireland,” he replied.

“And do you know what, I think that is what politicians on all sides are earnestly seeking to do, to get this right.”