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Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:10 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales) 11:10 pm, 28th October 2019

Not at all.

I urge the Secretary of State to think carefully before implementing direct rule, and I welcome what he said earlier on that subject. To reintroduce even an element of direct rule would mean fast-tracking legislation through Parliament, which cannot be a sensible path to take when talking about institutions that took years of hard negotiation and compromise to set up. I hope that the Secretary of State is in constant contact with his counterparts in the Irish Government to ensure that both Governments, as joint signatories to the international treaties that underpin devolution in Northern Ireland, are focused on restoration.

Although Stormont has no voice when it comes to Brexit, Brexit is unfortunately helping to ensure that Stormont continues to have no voice, and it is without question endangering the stability that devolution is meant to underpin and be underpinned by. The Assistant Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland is warning that a no-deal Brexit could open up opportunities for terrorist groups; and the Chief Constable himself states that loyalist paramilitary groups may seek to react to the instability caused by a Brexit deal that is seen to threaten the Union and, moreover, that his officers will not police any of the border crossings after Brexit. That is exactly what people have been warning of since the referendum campaign itself. They were ignored and dismissed at the time, yet here we are. I truly worry that, given the current power vacuum, those who seek to further their so-called cause and wreck lives and progress see Brexit as a jackpot. That cannot be allowed. Rather than playing reckless games in Downing Street, the Prime Minister should wake up to the reality of the damage that his Brexit extremism is causing. It is vital that the fragile peace in Northern Ireland is secured and maintained. It should never have been risked by this Tory Government in the first place.

A glance through today’s Belfast Telegraph shows just some of the issues that are being squeezed out: bedroom tax mitigation to expire next March; the impact of substance abuse on victims and their families; victims of historical abuse; people trafficking—all huge and substantial issues for any society to face, but with no debate, no solutions, no legislative action possible in response to any of them. That cannot be right or fair on the people of Northern Ireland.