Bradley to blame, but not for the reasons most critics say

A red herring has arisen over the stalemate at Stormont.

Friday, 22nd March 2019, 10:50 am
Updated Friday, 22nd March 2019, 10:51 am
News Letter editorial

Karen Bradley is getting a disproportionate amount of the blame from all sides for the failure to resolve devolution.

The secretary of state is to blame, but not for the reasons that critics mostly cite.

She is mostly blamed by those who think that she is not performing in a range of areas. That might be true, but there is one principal respect in which Mrs Bradley and, more importantly, the government, is failing: the weakness in the face of Sinn Fein’s tactics.

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That the government is reluctant to introduce direct rule is not hard to understand.

It is battling a massive crisis over Brexit — a crisis that was worsening last night. The UK’s departure from the European Union is consuming a huge amount of energy.

However, at the very least Mrs Bradley could have arranged Stormont so that it operated as a shadow assembly, with MLAs monitoring direct rule ministers. This would be far better than civil servants taking huge decisions.

It would also ensure that those elected assembly members who want to play a role in governance are able to do so, and that republicans are not therefore depriving the other MLAs of fulfilling their functions.

That is currently what is happening. It has made an Irish language act non negotiable. This is a total abuse of the system of mandatory government.

If the DUP had done the same in reverse, brought down power sharing until it got a particular piece of favoured legislation, there would be global denunciation of its conduct.

Sinn Fein’s other ‘red lines’ have been shown to be secondary to its language demand.

It has made legislating for Irish almost impossible. Mrs Bradley should long ago have brought back rule by ministers, scrutinised by MLAs.