Cost of political failure evident

Posted By: November 28, 2017

Irish News Editorial. Belfast. Tuesday, November 28, 2017

As we approach the first anniversary of the collapse of Stormont, it is clear that the absence of a power-sharing administration is having far-reaching implications for a range of significant areas in Northern Ireland.

Civil servants are keeping public services ticking over while the secretary of state has intervened to allow a budget to go forward.

But the lack of ministerial decision-making is creating problems for the health service, education and the construction industry, which is seeing major infrastructure projects put on hold.

These are the obvious issues that are being affected but there are other key areas that are being hindered by the political vacuum at the heart of government.

As we revealed yesterday, the Policing Board has been told by the permanent secretary at the justice department that it cannot exercise any of its functions in the absence of political members.

There may have been an expectation in the minds of the public that some limited duties could be carried out during the political impasse but it seems the legal advice is that the board currently is not constituted as required by the Police (NI) Act 2000.

This is a development that should concern anyone wanting to see the carefully constructed policing oversight structures working to their full effect.

The Policing Board was set up as part of a raft of measures aimed at building confidence in the new PSNI. Its role is to hold the chief constable to account for his actions and those of his staff.

This accountability and the effective monitoring of police performance are viewed by Nationalists as essential elements in the delivery of a service that is representative of the entire community and subject to appropriate levels of scrutiny.

It cannot be regarded as satisfactory that this crucial oversight function is not working as it should and may not be in place for a prolonged period.

This is plainly not in the best interests of the public and provides yet further evidence that the Stormont stalemate is having a detrimental impact on society.