Susan McKay

The latest talks aimed at restoring devolved rule to Northern Ireland have failed. Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and first minister of Northern Ireland when the Stormont Assembly collapsed early last year, has urged the Conservative secretary of state, Karen Bradley, who has been in office for a matter of weeks, not only to ‘set a budget but also to take key decisions impacting on our schools, infrastructure and hospitals’. She wants, in other words, that Northern Ireland be returned to direct rule from Westminster, and that Bradley start paying out the £1 billion that Theresa May was forced to pledge last year in exchange for the DUP’s help in propping up her minority government. The DUP’s deputy leader and leader at Westminster, Nigel Dodds, pointed out that this agreement was not contingent on the restoration of the executive at Stormont. The DUP supported devolution, Foster said, ‘but not at any price’.

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