Shailesh Vara has not ruled out cutting MLA’s salaries
Northern Ireland Secretary Shailesh Vara has urged the parties to agree the resurrection of powersharing government at Stormont.
He has not ruled out cutting MLAs’ salaries, but said he would prefer to see politicians agree to the return of the Assembly.
Earlier, Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill said she had no confidence that the Secretary of State intends to call a fresh Assembly election if the powersharing institutions are not restored by the end of October.
She told the Financial Times: “These are people who continually find ways to go around the law.”
Responding, Mr Vara said he is “sorry that Michelle takes that view of me”.
“Right now there are several weeks before the end of October. My intention is to try and get the Assembly up and running,” he said.
“But be in no doubt the law is clear, right now as the law stands I will have to call an election at the end of October if we don’t get an Executive up and running.”
During a visit to Dromore, Co Down, Mr Vara said he wanted to make a plea to politicians to agree over the return of Stormont.
The DUP is currently refusing to nominate a Speaker or ministers to a new Executive as part of a protest move to force the UK Government to act over unionist concerns around the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Mr Vara said: “Right now we have £437 million that is just waiting to be spent, and we have people in Northern Ireland who are suffering as much as anywhere else in the UK.
“There are rising energy costs, there is an issue of the rising cost of living and we still have an Assembly that is not sitting. I was hugely disappointed that last week the Speaker was not elected.
“We need to ensure that we have a new Speaker, that we have an Executive running and that the Assembly starts spending that money.
“I would use this occasion to make a plea to all the politicians in Northern Ireland to look at the 1.9 million people who are facing difficulties in many households and who need that money. I would urge the politicians to actually get around that table, have the Executive running and start spending that money.
“There are people who genuinely do not know where their food is coming for tomorrow’s meal, and we as politicians have a duty to reflect on that and do all we can, and the first thing people can do is get that Assembly up and running.”