On Tuesday Evening Parliament held a debate about the extension of the executive formation for Northern Ireland. It was an interesting debate and whilst most of the people who participated were MPs for Northern Ireland, and therefore also mostly members of the DUP, the issues that arose were clear that some wondered why the Secretary of State Karen Bradley was not part of the debate, and had instead delegated the role to John Penrose who is the Minister of State for Northern Ireland and then also what will happen between now and August when the extension comes to an end and also what will happen afterwards. One of the comments came from Andrew Murrison who is a Conservative MP and the Chair of the Northern Ireland Select Committee, a group that also includes Maria Caulfield, the MP for Lewes who also spoke during the debate. Andrew explained “The date of 25 August is interesting. As has been said, not much is likely to happen between now and then, particularly given the marching season….We are then of course faced with another important date: 31 October 2019, the latest in the deadlines for this Brexit journey. One thing has been made clear in terms of the chronology: in the event of a no-deal Brexit, there would have to be some form of direct rule from Westminster. That is the only certainty we have been given by Ministers. I would like to know from the Minister, therefore, whether it is his working assumption that, on 25 August, an election would be called in very short order, because that would give a small window between then and 31 October in which to hold elections and perhaps have a slightly different outcome from the one we have at the moment—that may just be crucial.”
It seems very clear from the debate which reflected the lack of action from the Government to attempt to reconnect the Northern Ireland Assembly that has failed to meet since 9th January 2017 and also that referred to the murder and response to the death of Lyra McKee. Although Karen Bradley was not participating in the debate about the extension of the formation she did speak during an earlier debate when a much wider group of MPs spoke out in respect of Lyra. Most of the time Karen refused to be drawn to speak about politics but on a few occasions she did make comments: “My hon. Friend highlights one issue that we face in the absence of an Executive at Stormont. I have said that I am determined to see the Executive restored as soon as possible…The conversations that I have had with the political leaders across Northern Ireland over the last few days indicate that all political parties are ready for that call to action…we absolutely have to ensure that we get political leadership back into Stormont, because it is what the people of Northern Ireland need and deserve, and it is what Lyra would want to see…I want to assure the hon. Gentleman that I am determined that we will see the Executive re-formed. I will come to this House to talk about that at an appropriate time”
All of us who are concerned to see Northern Ireland given the opportunity to be governed by local Assembly Members will now wonder when that appropriate time will be and perhaps if anything said at Lyra’s funeral will have focused Karen to work even harder to achieve what she promised on Tuesday evening.