Kyle declares “Tory neglect” has led to “dysfunction” in Northern Ireland

Katie Neame

Peter Kyle has argued that “Tory neglect” has led to “dysfunction” becoming embedded in Northern Ireland after Stormont assembly members missed a deadline set by Westminster to restore devolved government.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris is expected to confirm today that there will be a fresh set of elections in Northern Ireland, reportedly likely to take place on December 15th.

Heaton-Harris tweeted this morning: “I am extremely disappointed that the executive has not reformed. The people of Northern Ireland deserve a fully-functioning devolved government.

“Today, Stormont could be taking decisions to ease the challenges people face. Instead, the legal duty to act falls to me as Secretary of State. I will be providing an update on this.”

Interviewed on Sky News this morning, Kyle said: “We have allowed through Tory neglect, a dysfunction to embed itself in Northern Ireland. The divisions between different communities to become entrenched, to become more divided than they were before.

“And the process that we need to move people back together again and heal some of these challenges and move forward again seems just simply not to be in place at the moment.”

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has blocked the restoration of power sharing in the assembly since the last set of elections in May, when the DUP lost its status as the largest party in Northern Ireland to Sinn Fein.

The DUP is opposed to the Irish Sea border checks imposed as part of the Northern Ireland protocol following Brexit and wants to see the protocol overhauled before devolved government is resumed. Many Unionists argue that the protocol undermines Northern Ireland’s position within the United Kingdom.

The UK government set a six-month deadline for the restoration of power sharing, which expired today at midnight. Environment Secretary Therese Coffey confirmed this morning that a new set of elections in Northern Ireland will “definitely happen”.

On how Labour would look to restore power sharing, Kyle told viewers: “We’ve said from the outset that we would fixed the problems with the protocol. It’s been almost 15 months since the British government put forward its proposals for a fast-track across the Irish Sea.

“The EU, it’s been a year this week since the EU put forward its proposals for a green lane. We are arguing about the same thing. It is inconceivable to me that we’ve not made the progress that we need.”

The Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary accused the government of having “ignored’ the concerns raised by the DUP, arguing that it was only when the party acted in a “dysfunctional way by pulling down the assembly and the executive” that the government “started taking notice of them”.

In a speech to the Centre for European Reform think tank in July, Keir Starmer set out Labour’s plan to “make Brexit work”. The Labour leader told attendees: “The first step is clear and obvious. We must sort out the Northern Ireland protocol. If you’re going to make Brexit work, that has to be the starting point.”

The Labour leader announced that his party would scrap “most” border checks created in the Brexit deal “with a new veterinary agreement for agri-products between the UK and EU”.

He said Labour would also work with business to establish a “better scheme to allow low-risk goods to enter Northern Ireland without unnecessary checks”.


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