Monday 17 December 2018

Prospect of fresh elections in the North raised

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald will meet British Prime Minister Theresa May in London today to discuss the impasse in the North. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald will meet British Prime Minister Theresa May in London today to discuss the impasse in the North. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Michael McHugh

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has raised the prospect of fresh elections in the North.

It comes as Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald will meet British Prime Minister Theresa May in London today to discuss the impasse.

Ms Bradley has ruled out immediately reimposing direct rule from Westminster, despite coming under pressure from the DUP to appoint ministers to make decisions on schools and hospitals and pass a budget before they run out of cash.

It is 13 months since powersharing collapsed at Stormont in a row over a botched green energy scheme.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Ms Bradley said: "I intend to take steps to provide clarity on the budget and will update the house as soon as possible. This is clearly not where I want to be, but in the absence of an Executive I have no other choice."

She also said fresh elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly could be called if all other viable options were exhausted.

She said the UK Government will not shirk its responsibilities.

"Things in Northern Ireland cannot simply remain in a state of limbo. Challenging decisions will have to be taken."

She said commemorations of the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement later this year risked looking decidedly hollow.

Sinn Féin opposes the return of direct rule and has called for an intergovernmental council involving the Irish Government to consider the issue.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he wants to protect the Good Friday Agreement, a stance echoed by the British Government.

Irish Independent

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