Sir Ken Bloomfield warns of direct rule disadvantage
A FORMER head of the regional civil service has warned that the north would be badly disadvantaged by the imposition of direct rule with Brexit looming.
Sir Ken Bloomfield said returning power to Westminster was the only realistic alternative to Stormont but that it would be a regressive move.
The one-time senior civil servant's remarks come as Secretary of State James Brokenshire begins renewed efforts to restore devolution.
The Northern Ireland Office has stressed that it wants to see the executive back in place.
Sir Ken noted that it was "not impossible" that agreement could be brokered between the DUP and Sinn Féin, however, he warned that the north could not "continue indefinitely in this vacuum state – neither under direct rule nor under transferred authority".
"In the next month or two we need to have some settlement that will take us into the future for some time – not a little bridge to get us over this current situation," he told the News Letter.
The former senior civil servant said that if devolution could not be restored "the reality is that the only real alternative is direct rule – anything else would be very messy".
Sir Ken said a prolonged period of direct rule would be bad for the region with Brexit looming.
"I detect in the wider UK a sort of growing impatience with Northern Ireland," he said, adding that the region needed a strong voice highlighting its specific concerns.
Last week, Sinn Féin's former director of publicity Danny Morrison told The Irish News that Stormont was facing an "existential crisis" and there is little prospect of republicans returning to an executive in the near future.