Northern Ireland

Politicians have ‘duty to make institutions work’, says Hilary Benn

Shadow secretary of state Hilary Benn addressing the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Kevin Cooper/NUJ/PA)
Shadow secretary of state Hilary Benn addressing the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Kevin Cooper/NUJ/PA) Shadow secretary of state Hilary Benn addressing the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Kevin Cooper/NUJ/PA)

Shadow secretary of state Hilary Benn has said politicians in Northern Ireland have a “duty to make the institutions work”.

Mr Benn also said that “now is the time” for powersharing to return.

Devolved government at Stormont has not been operational for nearly two years due to the DUP’s ongoing refusal to nominate a speaker in protest against post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The shadow secretary of state addressed the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) at an event celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement at the Fairways Hotel in Dundalk on Thursday evening.

The event was opened by Justin McCamphill, president of Ictu, followed by a panel discussion of politicians from the five major Stormont parties.

Speaking on the panel was Declan Kearney representing Sinn Fein, Jonathan Buckley for the DUP, Eoin Tennyson for Alliance, Tom Elliot for the UUP and Matthew O’Toole from the SDLP.

Jacquie White, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers Union (Utu) introduced Mr Benn who gave his perspective as a Labour MP on the agreement and the peace process.

Shadow secretary of state Hilary Benn addressing the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) at an event celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement at the Fairways Hotel in Dundalk (Kevin Cooper/NUJ/PA)

Mr Benn said now is time for “the people of Northern Ireland to get their government back.”

“Those entrusted with political responsibility in Northern Ireland have a duty to make the institutions work,” he said.

“And therefore, the single most urgent priority and the biggest responsibility on all of us is to redouble our efforts to get democracy in Northern Ireland up and running again so that politicians can get back to work and be held to account by the people who elected them.

“There’s a lot of speculation about where the talks have got to. My message is simple. Now is the time to get this done.”

Also at the event, senior trade union officials reflected on the impact of the Good Friday Agreement with a panel discussion.

Paddy Mackel, chairperson of Nic-Ictu, introduced and chaired the discussion with panellists Patricia McKeown, Gerry McCormack and Carmel Gates.