Northern Ireland news

Key projects including A5 and Casement Park could get the go-ahead

Casement Park in Belfast, where safety experts have endorsed steps taken by the GAA to ensure spectator safety procedures in the redevelopment plan. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday October 7, 2018. See PA story ULSTER Casement. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

SEVERAL high-profile projects could now get the go-ahead after the Secretary of State introduced new legislation yesterday.

The bill aims to give civil servants greater clarity over their powers after the High Court ruled earlier this year that a senior civil servant did not have the authority to grant approval for a waste incinerator in Co Antrim in the absence of a Stormont minister.

While secretary of state Karen Bradley will not advise or direct Stormont departments over what decisions they should take, she has given them guidance.

The guidance says that any "major policy decisions", including significant new projects should have ministerial approval. But departments can make decisions which they believe are in the public interest.

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Here are some projects which could be affected:

Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry

The inquiry into the abuse of children in church and state-run institutions was published in January last year as Stormont was collapsing.

It recommended that victims receive an apology and compensation.

But civil service chief David Sterling has said officials cannot act without ministerial approval - a decision which may change once the new legislation is introduced next month.

Key road projects

Funding for the £150 million A5 upgrade had political agreement. It was announced in November last year that the project would begin early this year in the absence of ministers.

But following a fresh legal challenge, construction was put on hold.

Casement Park

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) was due to decide on plans for a new GAA stadium in west Belfast.

The project has already been delayed for several years amid rows over the size of the proposed facility.

Although £62m of public funds has been allocated to the project, but the GAA has told Stormont officials it cannot proceed without more money.

The department will now have to decide whether it gives the stadium the go-ahead or waits for the re-introduction of power-sharing.

North/South Interconnector

DfI granted planning approval for the Northern Ireland section of the new £200m cross-border energy project in January.

The 21-mile section of the 400kV overhead electricity line would run through parts of Armagh and Tyrone.

Landowners who launched a legal challenge to the decision have cited the absence of a minister among their arguments.

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