Monday 24 April 2017

Joint authority would be 'political nightmare'

SDLP leader Colm Eastwood said his party would not accept a return to direct rule of Northern Ireland from Westminster, and that only joint authority would be acceptable to nationalists. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
SDLP leader Colm Eastwood said his party would not accept a return to direct rule of Northern Ireland from Westminster, and that only joint authority would be acceptable to nationalists. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Rebecca Black

The introduction of joint authority to replace Stormont would be a "constitutional nightmare and politically eruptive" a leading politics academic has claimed.

Queen's University Professor Rick Wilford was commenting after SDLP leader Colm Eastwood said his party would not accept a return to direct rule of Northern Ireland from Westminster, and that only joint authority would be acceptable to nationalists.

If the Assembly cannot be revived, the SDLP chief said joint authority between the Irish and British governments would be "the only acceptable position for the nationalist community".

But Prof Wilford said this was only thinkable as a theoretical exercise. He said it could be described as a greener version of direct rule whereby London retained sovereign authority over Northern Ireland but Dublin had a consultative role.

If joint sovereignty was introduced, Ireland would assume together with Britain sovereignty over Northern Ireland, which would be jointly governed by London and Dublin.

"It would weaken the relative autonomy enjoyed by our local politicians within a devolved Northern Ireland because it would bring another actor on to the stage, namely Dublin," he said. "I don't think the Unionists, nor at this stage London or Dublin, would be terribly enthusiastic about going down that path (of joint authority)."

Irish Independent

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