26 September 2023

NORTHERN IRELAND: Minister puts deadline on power-sharing

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The Minister responsible for Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom Government has not ruled out cutting the salaries of Members of the Province’s Assembly if they failed to find a deal to form a Government.

However, Minister Shailesh Vara said he still hoped the parties would agree to resurrect a power-sharing Government by his deadline of the end of October.

Earlier, Leader of the Sinn Fein Party in the Province, Michelle O’Neill said she had no confidence that Mr Vara might call a fresh Assembly election if the power-sharing institutions were not restored by the end of October.

“These are people who continually find ways to go around the law,” Ms O’Neill said.

Mr Vara (pictured) said he was sorry Ms O’Neill took this view of him.

“Right now there are several weeks before the end of October,” Mr Vara said.

“My intention is to try and get the Assembly up and running,” he said.

“However, there can be no doubt the law is clear.

“Right now, as the law stands, I will have to call an election at the end of October if we don’t get an Executive up and running.”

The Democratic Unionist Party, the other main group in a potential power-sharing coalition, is currently refusing to nominate a Speaker or Ministers to a new Executive as part of a protest to force the UK Government to act over Unionist concerns around the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“Right now we have £437 million ($A746 million) that is just waiting to be spent, and we have people in Northern Ireland who are suffering as much as anywhere else in the UK,” Mr Vara said.

“There are rising energy costs, there is an issue of the rising cost of living and we still have an Assembly that is not sitting,” he said.

“I was hugely disappointed that no Speaker has been elected.”

Belfast, 16 August 2022

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