Northern Ireland news

Nichola Mallon: New British government office in Belfast undermines principle of power sharing

Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon
Connla Young

STORMONT minister Nichola Mallon has claimed that plans by the British government to set up a new office in Belfast undermine the principle of power sharing.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has said it will be recruiting civil servants to be based in Northern Ireland to "help implement new UK-wide investment programmes".

The British government's interests in the north are already represented by the Northern Ireland Office.

Ms Mallon said the current system of government at Stormont is "based on the core idea of progress through partnership".

“I am sincerely concerned that the British government has said that it is setting up a Whitehall Office in Northern Ireland to unilaterally decide how funding on devolved matters can be spent," she said.

"This move circumvents and undermines the core principle of power sharing."

The SDLP deputy leader and infrastructure minister said any new structure would have no oversight locally.

"These offices will not be accountable to people in Northern Ireland and they will not have to work in partnership with other parties to form common priorities."

Ms Mallon also said many will be concerned that the "priorities for Boris Johnston and the Tory party are way out of step with the priorities of local people".

"We can't have a system of direct rule lite where London ministers ignore the priorities of people and parties here to pursue budget-busting sea bridges or tunnels and ignore our real needs."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government insisted the UK Government is fully committed to devolution in Northern Ireland.

"It is also committed to moving more civil servants out of London and closer to the communities they serve - including Northern Ireland.

“We will shortly start recruiting a small number of civil servants to be based in Northern Ireland, to help implement new UK-wide investment programmes announced in the Budget, benefitting from local knowledge of projects coming forward and working closely with the Northern Ireland Executive and others to maximise investment opportunities.”

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