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Workers take part in a rally at Belfast City Hall, as an estimated 150,000 workers take part in walkouts over pay across Northern Ireland. Alamy Stock Photo
Stormont collapse

NI secretary promises legislation to ease Stormont deadlock, doesn't shift on public sector pay

Heaton-Harris said he is “disappointed” that the NI assembly has not been recalled, as the DUP’s veto continues.

THE UK GOVERNMENT’S Northern Ireland Secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris, has said that he will introduce legislation that will aim to see the political deadlock in the region while Stormont remains collapsed. 

Chris Heaton-Harris expressed his disappointment that all political parties could not reach an agreement to reinstate the NI Executive, after the latest deadline for calling a fresh election passed yesterday. 

Heaton-Harris did not say anything about calling a general election, and in the past he has opted not to call one despite deadlines passing. 

The UK politician said, in a statement released after midnight last night, that the legislation he brings in will help devolved Government departments to manage the immediate and evident challenges” that they face in stabilising services and finances. 

Yesterday roughly 150,000 public service workers went on strike in a cross-industry day of industrial action, over the absence of a new pay deal. 

In December the British Government offered a financial package to Northern Ireland worth more than £3 billion – several hundred million of which was to go towards outstanding public sector pay awards. 

When the DUP refused the offer, and opted to continue its veto over the Stormont assembly returning, it was made clear the money would no longer be made available. 

Trade unions have called on Heaton-Harris to “do the right thing” and to see to it that the money for outstanding public sector pay awards is provided, whether a deal is reached on the Executive returning or not.

Last night, the Northern Ireland Secretary said that in the continued absence of a sitting Executive, he will now update Westminster on “the next steps”. 

He did not make any comment in response to calls for the public sector pay deal money to be made available.

Yesterday Michelle O’Neill, Stormont’s would-be First Minister and the Vice-President of Sinn Féin, said that workers should not be “punished” because of the DUP’s refusal “to join with the rest of us  and work together for all”. 

“The money is there to award them a pay rise, and the British Government should pay them now,” she added. 

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