NIO minister calls for a Stormont pledge but he does not cite the context of threats to devolution

News Letter editorial of Tuesday March 1 2022:

By Editorial
Monday, 28th February 2022, 11:52 pm
Updated Monday, 28th February 2022, 11:56 pm
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

A junior minister at the Northern Ireland Office has said that the UK government “is absolutely committed to a return to power-sharing”.

Conor Burns MP called on all parties to make a similar commitment to power-sharing before the election, and he emphasised London’s “passionate” belief that decisions taken in Northern Ireland “should be taken by people elected in Northern Ireland”.

Mr Burns is a representative with an interesting political background and his appointment to the NIO was seen as a sign of a bolstering of the government’s commitment to Northern Ireland, and the Union.

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In normal times his plea about power-sharing would be a fair one: devolution brings decision making closer to communities and enduring local government ought to be a stabilising influence on NI.

The problem in making any such pledge to Stormont is the context of the last five years.

When Sinn Fein brought down devolution in 2017 no UK minister even hinted at disapproval of such vandalism, not even when Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney made clear their belief that the SF demand of an Irish language act be met.

In fact, after three years in which republicans were allowed to keep down devolution without a word of criticism, Julian Smith as secretary of state singled out the DUP for censure for delaying a return. Yet the party, if anything, was too hasty to agree New Decade, New Approach, with all its flaws.

Latterly, Stormont has been threatened by the Irish Sea border and the way (by the government’s own legal case) it impliedly and partially repeals the Act of Union, insofar as that foundational law ensures unfettered internal UK trade.

Neither of these scandals have been resolved: the latent threat to devolution from a political party that wants Northern Ireland to fail, or the constitutional change to appease Ireland-EU, imposed after years of warnings, almost threats, of violence if so much as CCTV was put on the land frontier.

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