Ulster Unionist Leader Robin Swann MLA has stated that the fact that Northern Ireland has had no devolved government for 589 days is an abject failure of Sinn Fein and the DUP, and expressed his regret that the Secretary of State has been a spectator to events.
Ulster Unionist Leader, Robin Swann MLA said:
“The fact that Northern Ireland has had no government for 589 days is an abject failure of politics and in particular the two largest parties, both Sinn Fein and the DUP. The people of Northern Ireland have been immeasurably and continually let down. Patients are coming to harm as they wait on medical appointments, our teachers are struggling with ever tightening budgets and large infrastructure projects are effectively mothballed with no Ministers available to make decisions. It is totally unacceptable. For years Sinn Fein and the DUP tried to tell the people that they never had it so good. At one time they even used to boast about the fact that the Sinn Fein/DUP regime was the longest period of devolved government in years and that one of their last terms in office would be about ‘delivery’. What they delivered was carved up government built upon the sandy foundations of the St Andrews agreement, an agreement which embedded sectarianism at the heart of the devolved institutions through their manipulation of how the First and deputy First Minister are elected. It suited their selfish agenda and it should be no surprise that devolution is currently in the mess that it is.
“I firmly believe that devolution is the best option for government in Northern Ireland but in its absence we have to face up to the reality that the welfare of our people must come first. That means exploring other options for political decision making in Northern Ireland, and fast.
“Regrettably the Secretary of State has been a spectator to current events - on one hand being pulled in one direction by the demands of the Conservative-DUP partnership and on the other, seemingly hesitant to act in case Sinn Fein sensitivities are offended. That has to end. Our hospitals, schools and the business sector cannot continue to be held to ransom over Sinn Fein intransigence or the fact that the DUP is distracted by the continuing inquiry into the RHI debacle which happened on the Sinn Fein/DUP watch. As one of my predecessors has pointed out, yes go ahead and facilitate negotiations and help create the conditions for that to happen, but with that, what is also needed is pressure. History has shown that Sinn Fein will quite happily hold the whole country to ransom if they are allowed to, but history has also shown they will also move if pressure is applied. The Secretary of State needs to be absolutely clear - if there’s to be no devolved institutions within a set time frame, then Her Majesty’s Government must do what is right, look after the interests of the people and appoint direct rule Ministers. The recommendations from the Reaney report should also be implemented. The days of the Secretary of State sitting on the fence are over.
“Northern Ireland politicians should be at the table ensuring that our interests are best represented in the BREXIT negotiations, but the chair is empty. I believe that nothing will move in politics here until Westminster gives direction, as neither the DUP nor Sinn Fein want their fingerprints on whatever the end result is, as neither have it in them to take a hard decision. And the current impasse and lack of input from Northern Ireland politicians may just suit those in Westminster who would rather ignore the difficulty Northern Ireland brings to BREXIT negotiations, or those who see us as a threat to delivering the hard pure BREXIT they seek.
“The current lack of governance and decision making in Northern Ireland isn't seen by some at Westminster as the problem it once was, and is viewed as a blessing in disguise. Currently in the grand scheme of things, for some we are an annoyance rather than a problem. But the lack of governance and decision making is a very real problem for those of us who live in Northern Ireland.
“The business sector, community and voluntary organisations, the health sector, education and agriculture sectors are speaking out. While some parties claim they are listening, it is the Ulster Unionist Party that is actually hearing what you are saying.”