Bradley frustrated at missed opportunities as powersharing impasse continues

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The Northern Ireland Secretary has voiced frustration that she cannot focus on her job promoting the region due to the need to sort out the problems left by local politicians.

Karen Bradley said instead of opening doors for local businesses overseas, she was having to do work that should be done by Stormont ministers, such as passing a budget for the region’s rudderless public services.

Mrs Bradley told a business breakfast event in Belfast she was jealous of the secretaries of state for Scotland and Wales.

“They have stable devolved government locally and that means they can go around the world promoting the places they represent at cabinet, and I can’t do that because I have to come and try to sort out problems here,” she added.

Mrs Bradley was addressing a gathering of entrepreneurs in the city’s regenerated docklands.

“I want to be off promoting Northern Ireland, because I don’t want to be doing a budget, and I have to do a budget because we haven’t got a devolved government at Stormont.

“That’s the frustration for me and it’s a frustration for people here.

“Because they can see the UK Government can really open doors for them but the UK Government can’t do that if the UK Government is doing the job someone else should be doing.”

Mrs Bradley and Irish deputy premier Simon Coveney are to engage in a series of bilateral meetings with the Stormont parties next week as they bid to find a way to resurrect the faltering negotiations to end the 15-month-long powersharing impasse.

A bitter stand-off between the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein on a number of key issues, including legislative protections for Irish language speakers, is preventing the restoration of an executive that crashed in January 2017 amid a row over a botched green energy scheme.

While the DUP has expressed doubt devolution can be restored this calendar year, Mrs Bradley said she was less pessimistic.

“I genuinely believe there are people in all the parties, in leadership in all the parties, who really do want to make this work,” she told the Press Association.

“We can’t wait, we can’t sit back and say it will happen one day and we will just manage until then.

“We can’t limp along, you can’t let Northern Ireland limp along, we have to get this right and we have to get those MLAs back up in Stormont in an executive with an Assembly holding them to account.”

Mrs Bradley is currently examining a range of proposals to inject some fresh momentum into the stalled process, including the establishment of a form of shadow Assembly to scrutinise decisions taken in Westminster while the political impasse is ongoing.

“All the parties have said that they want to go back into government,” she said.

“I have spoken to them all, they have all said they would like to continue to speak, to continue to talk, they are all looking at the different options.

“I am looking at all of those, it would be wrong of me not to, but I’ve got to find that thing that works for everyone.”

Mrs Bradley said she hoped this week’s events to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday peace agreement would reinvigorate the process.

“I genuinely think the inspiration we have all had from the events of the last two days really is a kick-start again for people to recognise just how important this is and what having a functioning devolved government has brought to Northern Ireland and what more it could bring,” she said.

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