Set firm Stormont talks deadline, urges Reid

Lord Reid
Lord Reid

The political crisis threatening power-sharing in Northern Ireland must not be allowed to drift, the former secretary of state who triggered Stormont’s last major suspension has warned.

Lord Reid of Cardowan stressed the need for urgent resolution in a House of Lords intervention on the furore sparked by a murder linked to the IRA.

Lord Reid, who as John Reid suspended the Assembly more than a decade ago, said that any talks process had to have a deadline.

Asking an urgent oral question yesterday in the House of Lords, he said: “Will the Government give us an assurance that this will be time-limited?

“Because if they are not, I can assure you from experience, they will drift on indefinitely and this crisis will just get worse.”

Responding on behalf of the UK Government, Scotland Office minister Lord Dunlop said the negotiations needed to be “focused, intensive and urgent”.

As secretary of state, Lord Reid suspended the Assembly in 2002 in the wake of a police raid on a suspected IRA spying operation at Stormont.

Power-sharing was not reintroduced until 2007.

Responding to Lord Reid and to a call from DUP peer Lord Browne to suspend Stormont, Lord Dunlop made clear that the Government “does not think the time is right to suspend” but added that “if circumstances change, the Government will review its options”.

He stressed that suspension was essentially an issue for the Assembly.

Former Ulster Unionist deputy leader Lord Kilclooney also spoke, saying that a Stormont adjournment would be “much more preferable to suspension”.