A sad and frustrating day for Northern Ireland due to talks impasse, says Farry

Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry has said today is a “sad and frustrating one” after the talks process was suspended until the autumn but added his party remained willing to engage over the summer months and beyond.

Dr Farry said more urgent intervention was needed from the UK Government to address budget issues and give greater clarity on the powers of civil servants to take urgent decisions due to the lack of Ministers.

“The suspension of the talks reflects the failure of the two largest parties to face up to the responsibilities they have been given by the electorate,” he said.

“Whatever the differences of the DUP and Sinn Fein, they need to reflect if they are bigger than the damage being done to our local economy and public services coming from a prolonged political impasse. It is sad and frustrating Northern Ireland will not have any coherent government for most of 2017. This absence also comes at a time when we need our own voice around Brexit – a challenge that affects this region more acutely than any other.

“Alliance remains available for engagement in any talks format at any time. While it may seem a suspension of the talks is inevitable given the DUP and Sinn Fein have negotiated themselves into a dead-end, it is important to consider other approaches, including bringing in a mediator to facilitate.

“Northern Ireland only works best when we have devolution and control over our local affairs. Given the divided nature of our society, we need shared government and recognition of our interdependence.

“It is sad it has become inevitable the UK Government must urgently intervene to take some degree of control over local affairs. This is the only responsible thing to do and cannot wait – it will give some degree of certainty around budgets and to enable decisions to be taken. To leave a political vacuum would mean further waste of resources and the further deterioration in a range of public services.

“We have been alarmed at the complacency towards this both inside and outside of government. But even confirming budgets, and allocating the Barnett consequentials, is in itself not enough. There must be clarification on the framework in which civil servants can take decisions in the absence of ministers – there are simply too many decisions that just cannot wait.

“It is important the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement is protected during this interim phase, and in particular the views, engagement and co-operation with the Irish Government continues in appropriate areas, consistent with the principle of consent.”

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