Leading article

Time for an apology from Gordon Lyons

There can be no doubt that all the members of the Stormont Executive have faced enormous pressures since their powers were restored just over a year ago and that many errors of judgment have taken place across the board.

The Brexit fiasco has brought a range of malign consequences and addressing the unprecedented issues resulting from the protocols surrounding the decision by voters in England and Wales, but crucially not in Scotland and Northern Ireland, to leave the EU has become an overwhelming priority.

A relatively small number of DUP figures celebrated the result of the 2016 referendum and foolishly assumed that the imminent introduction of a new division between the EU and the UK would simply reinforce the unionist position.

They played little serious part in the detailed debate which followed, as the former Downing Street chief of staff Jonathan Powell bluntly pointed out in our coverage on Saturday, until they belatedly discovered that they had been completely misled by Boris Johnson and a sea rather than a land border was the looming reality.

Attempts to lash out at Dublin, Brussels and, in an increasingly pointed development, London, were fairly predictable but the idea that the entirely inevitable sequence of events associated with the DUP-endorsed EU withdrawal can be halted remains unlikely.

The onus is now on all our elected representatives to produce agreed solutions, and it is hugely difficult to understand how one DUP minister could meet colleagues from other parties at Parliament Buildings one afternoon last month and overlook mentioning that he planned to announce a radical change of strategy the next day.

Gordon Lyons, the most recently appointed member of the Executive, decided to declare that, as head of the agriculture department, he intended to immediately to stop all work on the massively sensitive task of developing permanent inspection posts at our ports.

There are specific guidelines surrounding all initiatives regarded as controversial and cutting across different sectors, and it is widely believed Stormont's attorney general has ruled that Mr Lyons was in basic breach of the ministerial code.

What is not clear is the response from Mr Lyons and his party, but a straightforward apology, and an indication that every reasonable attempt will now be made to secure a consensus on the way ahead, would go at least some way to convince an increasingly sceptical public that our devolved structures have a credible future.

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