Stormont’s top mandarin says Opposition drives Executive parties together

Sir Malcolm McKibbin retires at the end of the year
Sir Malcolm McKibbin retires at the end of the year

The head of the Civil Service has welcomed Stormont’s first official Opposition since 1972.

Sir Malcolm McKibbin, who is retiring at the end of this year, told a Belfast conference that the Opposition could help to drive the Executive parties together and help improve the standard of government in the Province.

Addressing the event, which had been organised by the National Children’s Bureau to discuss the Programme for Government, Sir Malcolm said: “Culture and behaviours are going to have to change; they’re going to have to change round the Executive table and they’re going to have to change in the Civil Service.

“And I think it’s probably made easier by having a formal Opposition – I do think that helps drive government closer together.”

Sir Malcolm also gave a hint that Sinn Fein may be resigned to Brexit taking place and already thinking of ways in which it can ameliorate its impact on the Province rather than block it entirely.

He said that although the DUP and Sinn Fein have been on opposite sides of the Brexit debate, he said “they have agreed that they are going to do all they can to influence the United Kingdom negotiating position to secure the best deal for Northern Ireland”.

He said that the prime minister’s pledge to trigger the European Union’s Article 50 by the end of March would “undoubtedly crystallise people’s thinking and intensify the engagement that we have on some of these Brexit discussions”.