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Time to end the political drift

The Court of Appeal's ruling yesterday on the Arc21 incinerator case should increase pressure on the secretary of state to intensify efforts to restore the Stormont executive.

However, such has been Karen Bradley's semi-detached approach to the political vacuum that currently exists that there will be little confidence that anything will change in the aftermath of this judgment.

No doubt Ms Bradley's position is strongly influenced by her boss, Theresa May, who is in turn largely dependent on the DUP's ten MPs to prop up her shaky government.

It is a profoundly unsatisfactory state of affairs and we have to question just how long matters can be allowed to drift in Northern Ireland?

This latest judicial ruling was highly significant and came after the High Court determined in May that a senior civil servant did not have the power to grant planning permission for a £240 million waste treatment centre and incinerator at Hightown Quarry in Mallusk.

The Department for Infrastructure appealed this verdict in a bid to clarify what powers civil servants had in the absence of a devolved administration, arguing that Parliament had anticipated periods where Northern Ireland would have to be run without a functioning executive.

In dismissing the appeal, judges concluded that the incinerator decision was 'cross-cutting, significant and controversial' and was therefore one that could only be taken by the executive.

We are now left in a position where any controversial decision in relation to major projects - such as Casement stadium although there are others - may have to be put on ice until a minister is in post.

The secretary of state has been taking some decisions over the budget but any moves towards introducing full blown direct rule would be regarded as a retrograde step.

We need to see some sense of urgency in terms of getting Stormont back to work and ending this unacceptable stalemate which will have a detrimental effect on our wider economy.

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