Northern Ireland news

Politicians should be give time to 'maximise confidence' in Stormont

Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Simon Hoare

THE head of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has said that politicians should be give time to "maximise confidence" in Stormont for an extended period.

Simon Hoare was elected as chairman of the NIAC in July 2019.

Last week former secretary of State Julian Smith told the committee he thought assembly elections, due to be held in May 2022, should be postponed for at least a year to allow the executive time to deliver on the New Decade New Approach deal.

Speaking to The Irish News Mr Hoare, the Conservative Party MP for North Dorset, said he agreed that politicians should be allowed time to deliver on promises.

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Speaking about the suggestion to delay elections Mr Hoare said: "I can't speak for the whole committee but I didn't detect any of the members of the committee bridling at the idea".

He said the January deal to restore devolution was made possible by "tremendous volcano pressure from members of the public, who were feeling an increasing frustration at politicians" over issues such as health and education.

"If we are to seek ways to maximise confidence in the ability of Stormont to deliver on these things and the New Decade New Approach agreement, then I think as much time as possible, in a post Covid environment, for the power sharing executive to sort of some of these issues.

"And at least be able to show the electorate a clear direction of travel, and also an ability to power share in a proper way.

"We are in very changed circumstances, there will be a new normal but it would be a very brave man or woman who tried to talk about now what the new normal will look like."

The DUPs Ian Paisley has lobbied for legislation on abortion, passed by Westminster during the collapse of power sharing, to now be handed over to the assembly, saying it would be “absolute folly” to intervene on issues such as abortion that might upset the “applecart”.

Assembly elections could be delayed

However, Mr Hoare said that wasn't a "sustainable argument".

"I certainly think that there is a useful lesson to be learned that if Stormont isn't sitting and if there is popular agitation for changes in areas which are devolved, don't be surprised if Westminster move to address those, I make no comment on the merit or demerit of the particular issue.

"Is it logical to try and retrofit and say, well Westminster did this but it was a devolved matter and we might have done it this way or not, and want to go back and effectively erase these particular act of progress of an issue?

"I don't think that's a sustainable argument to deploy because government has to be delivered at that moment."

And the Tory MP said that while the December election, in which Boris Johnson received a huge majority, put an end to those lobbying to prevent Brexit, recent elections in the Republic presented new challenges.

"Once the December election was sorted out the jockeying and the politicking on Brexit, on can it be stopped, that as a piece of politics disappeared," Mr Hoare said.

"So the party returned with a very healthy majority, the referendum result was going to be delivered.

"The answering of that question by the UK electorate coupled by the public pressure saying enough is enough of the talking, we actually want to see some action, were two of the principle things.

"My fear is that could easily be replicated, in the fluid situation with regards to the general election in the Republic.

"I just hope and pray that instability and potential for short term political advantage doesn't spill over the border and destabilise what is - lets be frank - an enthusiastic but relatively shaky edifice of Stormont and Northern Ireland devolution."

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