The North’s power-sharing executive has failed to meet for over a month amid fears of a stalemate between Sinn Féin and the DUP.
Despite outstanding decisions on a range of crucial issues there has not been an executive meeting since June 19th. The 12 ministers in the Six-County cabinet usually meet to discuss the way ahead on major policy decisions every Thursday at Stormont Castle, outside Belfast.
Sinn Féin and the DUP have been unable to agree on fundamental issues such as the devolution of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast, an Irish language bill, plans for the development of Long Kesh prison and alternative to the 11-plus exam for primary school students.
British Direct Ruler Shaun Woodward has called for “brave leadership” from the DUP and Sinn Féin.
He praised the power-sharing administration for historic achievements in its first year but called for the transfer of policing and justice powers from as a crucial next step.
Mr Woodward, who has just completed his first year in office, pointed to the achievements made since the devolved government was formed in May 2007 under Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.
However, under the St Andrews Agreement, which paved the way for devolution, May this year was a target date for the devolution of policing powers. The DUP blocked the move.
And Mr Woodward sharply contrasted the bitter debate over the Irish Language Act in the Six Counties with how similar language laws were agreed in Scotland and Wales.
And he insisted the Provisional IRA’s army council should go and armed loyalist groups must now decommission weapons.
“I think there are so many arguments for completing devolution and it’s not about creating huge pressure - it’s about recognising where the public is,” he said.
“The public want jobs. They want the investment. They want confidence in the future for their children.
“I think this is a place of great potential but it needs Robinson and it needs McGuinness to make that happen.”
He also said the failure to agree plans to preserve the site of the historic H-Block hunger strike as a conflict transformation centre was undermining his efforts to secure British Army land for use by the north’s executive
The British Direct Ruler said Sinn Féin’s decision to support the PSNI police had transformed the political landscape in the region.
Family members of Armagh murder victim Paul Quinn have blamed their relative’s death on republicans and criticised Sinn Féin but Mr Woodward highlighted the party’s condemnation of the murder.
He pointed out that Sinn Féin had condemned republican militants and attacks on Orange halls and had consistently urged cooperation with the police and the courts.
“When recently we had the attack on the police officer in an attempted murder, Martin McGuinness goes and visits the man in hospital. Now that’s leadership,” Mr Woodward said.
However, Mr Woodward said a new focus must be made on the transfer of policing powers amid concern over a deadlock between Sinn Féin and the DUP.
“We’re ready to do it tomorrow. Clearly Sinn Féin would like to get on with it tomorrow,” he said.
Mr Woodward highlighted a recent speech by Mr Robinson in which the DUP leader sought to portray Stormont control over policing as a unionist goal.
He praised the “leadership” that he said was shown in the remarks, insisting that devolution was winning.
“The idea that you can have an indefinite menu of a la carte devolution, I’m afraid is at best romantic and at worst dangerously eccentric,” he said.
“The mark of a successful politician here is to ride the wave and the wave here is one of devolution.”