The Northern Ireland civil service could “run out of money” if a budget is not imposed from Westminster by the end of the month, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has said.
Mr Brokenshire insisted that the decision to impose a budget from Westminster did not amount to a return to direct rule, but was simply a mechanism to allow public officials to continue their work.
Despite the deadlock in talks between the parties, he said he believes the will and determination exist to restore the powersharing assembly executive at Stormont, after 10 months in limbo.
The stalemate over the restoration of devolved institutions meant there was no delegate from Northern Ireland at Friday’s summit in Jersey of the British-Irish Council, a body established by the Good Friday Agreement, where Mr Brokenshire was representing the UK Government.
He told broadcaster RTE: “We are determined we will see the executive restored. The two parties have not found resolution at this stage, regrettably.
“I’m having to move forward with the introduction of a Budget Bill at Westminster that will simply codify what the Northern Ireland civil service have been doing, to enable them to continue with their work and most importantly not run out of money, which could be the case if we didn’t take this step and didn’t have this in position by the end of the month.
“This is not direct rule. This is not about the UK Government seeking to interpose its will, but rather a measure to ensure that there is a legal framework to enable the the civil service to carry on doing what they have been doing for the best part of this year.”
He added: “I still think this is possible. The parties have made some progress.
“The gap still remains, but I believe – with will, with determination – we will reflect on what further steps need to be taken to get that positive outcome that would get them back in business, that would get Stormont up and running and get representation at the British-Irish Council from Northern Ireland.”