Will cutting MPs’ pay break Northern Ireland deadlock?

Stormont’s 600-day impasse sets world record for longest peacetime period without a government

Stormont national assembly
Northern Ireland has not had a functioning government at Stormont, in Belfast, since January 2017
(Image credit: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images)

Northern Ireland assembly members are to have their pay slashed in a bid to break the political deadlock that has left the region with no government for almost 20 months.

Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, has said Stormont members (MLAs) are not “performing the full range of their legislative functions” and would have their pay cut by more than £13,000, from £49,500 to £35,888.

The move follows prolonged failure to heal the bitter divide between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein, and restore their coalition.

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Last week, Northern Ireland passed Belgium for the world’s longest peacetime period without a functioning government, surpassing 590 days.

Irish nationalists pulled out of the power-sharing executive in January 2017 following a row over the official status of the Irish language and claims they were not being treated as equal partners by the pro-British DUP.

The subsequent confidence and supply agreement reached between the DUP and Theresa May following last year’s general election has also raised questions about the Westminster government’s impartiality.

Despite numerous aborted efforts to resolve the disputes, Bradley has also ruled out calling a fresh Assembly election. Instead, she is to bring forward legislation to formally allow Northern Ireland’s civil servants to make the decisions needed to keep the country running in the absence of the devolved government.

“The move is the latest step towards re-imposing direct rule of the region, including imposing a budget directly from London” says Reuters, something the British government has been reluctant to do until now “for fear of angering Irish nationalists and the Irish government”.

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