19 April 2023

Reform of Stormont can only be considered when devolution returns – PM

19 April 2023

Reform of Stormont’s powersharing structures can only be considered when devolution is back up and running, the Prime Minister has said.

Rishi Sunak said he understood the frustration of those calling for changes to the governance arrangements to prevent regular collapses of the assembly and executive in Northern Ireland.

The institutions incorporate a system based on mutual veto powers, enabling blocs of unionist and nationalist MLAs to stop moves that otherwise command majority support and, in extreme circumstances, pull down the institutions and prevent them operating.

The DUP is currently exercising its veto to blockade Stormont in protest at post-Brexit trading arrangements.

In 2017, Sinn Fein collapsed the ministerial executive amid a furore about a botched green energy scheme.

The Government has faced calls from some of the DUP’s main rivals, particularly the cross-community Alliance Party, to change the rules to allow the majority of MLAs to get back to work.

In his speech at the Queen’s University conference marking the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Sunak said any reforms would need to command widespread support in Northern Ireland.

“Let me also say to those who would seek to reform the institutions right now – I understand your frustrations,” he said.

“But history reminds us that nothing in Northern Ireland has ever been achieved by trying to get round one community or another.

“So any conversation about reform can only begin once the institutions are up and running again and if it attracts widespread consent.”

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