My Lords, it seems that we are again on the merry-go-round as we come to Northern Ireland. We on these Benches have said it umpteen times, but we want to keep repeating that we feel the best way forward is for the Northern Ireland Assembly to be making these decisions. Alas, there is no prospect of the Assembly sitting any time soon. There was an honest attempt to have the Assembly recalled just over a week ago, but that attempt was also squandered because Sinn Féin, again, stayed away and was not prepared to participate.
The noble Lord, Lord Lexden, made reference to the RHI, which was allegedly the reason that the Assembly was brought down, but those of us who live in Northern Ireland know perfectly well that that was not the reason; it was the excuse. A judge-led inquiry was established, which has now completed its report and its findings will be made public very soon, we hope. Therefore, if the RHI had been the reason, the inquiry would remove all the alleged obstacles to the return of devolution, but those of us who sit on these Benches and who live in Northern Ireland are not as naive as that. We know that the prospects of the Northern Ireland Assembly returning any time soon are very remote. Indeed, I suspect that we will be going through the same process again this time next year, so the Government have some responsibility to bring energy and urgency to the whole task of restoring devolution in Northern Ireland. I accept that you can take a horse to the water but you cannot make him drink. That is the situation that we find ourselves in today.
What we should be debating and discussing today are the issues that affect people’s everyday lives. Our health service is in dire straits. Why is no urgency applied to look at those who need urgent health services? Why are they ignored? Our education system is in urgent need of attention. Again, it is ignored. Our infrastructure in Northern Ireland is creaking at the hinges.