Incinerator ruling ought to mean at last NI is given direct rule

Morning View
Morning View

After yesterday’s legal ruling that a civil servant does not have the power to decide on the incinerator on the outskirts of Belfast, Declan Kearney appeared on BBC Radio Talkback to give Sinn Fein’s assessment of the judgement.

Mr Kearney said that it showed the need to move urgently to establish the British Irish Intergovernmental conference.

He said the preferred option was to re-establish Stormont on “a democratic, rights-based framework”.

His SF colleague Martina Anderson called for joint partnership, ie London and Dublin oversight of Northern Ireland.

Such calls are predictable but ought to be a non starter. The problem is that weakness from Britain leaves open the possibility there will be some small move towards the Sinn Fein demand. The government would never move fully to joint partnership when it is propped up by the DUP, but it might try to move towards a form of direct rule in which great respect and attention is heeded towards Irish concerns.

Or it might announce direct rule alongside the British Irish Intergovernmental conference.

In either scenario, the DUP would have to withdraw support for the government. This might in turn lead to Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister but it is just as likely to lead to Jacob Rees Mogg entering Downing Street.

If there is any reward whatsoever for Sinn Fein’s tactics of the last 15 months, even only in the form of a slightly increased say for Dublin, it will make stable government at Stormont almost impossible. The party will seek future core demands at a later date by repeating its recent tactics.

Yesterday’s ruling helps to clear the air and to emphasise something that most people already knew. Government by civil servants is unacceptable.

Political reward for political blackmail is equally so. London must introduce direct rule in an way that publicly gives the minimum possible consultative role to an Irish government that has courted SF and made Brexit as hard as possible.