Joint authority ‘not being considered’ for Northern Ireland, says UK government

Stormont Executive Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A joint authority arrangement for the governance of Northern Ireland is “not being considered”, the UK government has said.

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) statement came on Thursday following speculation as the latest attempt to resurrect the Stormont Assembly failed.

Earlier this week, Ireland’s premier Micheal Martin said there cannot be direct rule from Westminster in the event of powersharing not being restored.

The Taoiseach said if the institutions are not reformed in time, the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) “kicks in” and the Irish Government will have a “consultative” role in the running of Northern Ireland.

On Thursday, Mr Martin said that Ireland’s consultative role on non-devolved matters will become bigger if the collapse of the institutions in Northern Ireland drags on.

He said: “There is still time to get into the Assembly and restore the executive and we will keep ongoing contact with the British government.

“At this stage we want the DUP to go back into the executive.”

Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald has also said there can be no return to direct rule.

An NIO spokesperson said joint authority is not being considered.

“The UK government is absolutely clear that the consent principle governs the constitutional position of Northern Ireland,” they said.

“We will not countenance any arrangements that are inconsistent with that principle.”

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said unionists will not accept joint authority.

“I think the Irish government needs to hear this loud and clear, unionists will never accept joint authority, if joint authority is imposed upon us, the Good Friday Agreement is dishonoured completely and is not therefore a basis for us moving forward,” he said.

“If the Irish government thinks that by threatening me or my party with joint authority that that will help us get to a solution quickly, that it will move us forward on the basis of mutual respect and understanding then I’m afraid the Irish government is deluded.

“Unionists will not accept joint authority. Joint authority would be an abandonment of the Good Friday Agreement and if that’s what the Irish government want to do, then let them be honest and say.”

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