London, UK- Speculation is mounting that the British government could impose a “direct rule” in Northern Ireland as the clock ticks towards a potential “no-deal” Brexit on October 31.
The move would suspend the troubled self-government that the region has exercised in fits and starts since a peace process resulted in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, ending violent communal strife.
It would be a move that would likely be attacked by “nationalist” republicans who oppose British rule in the province, and will complicate the United Kingdom’s already-strained relations with Dublin as it prepares to exit the European Union, which will damage Ireland’s economy.
What is a direct rule?
The direct rule means the UK government takes over responsibility for making key decisions in Northern Ireland which, under the peace process, is meant to be run by a devolved government with power shared by the opposing communities.
The power-sharing executive collapsed in 2017 over political disagreements and since then – for nearly 1,000 days – local civil servants have run the province.
Jess Sargeant, a researcher at the Institute for Government, said if a direct rule from London was imposed it is not clear exactly what powers UK ministers would assume.
“We don’t know what approach the UK government will take – they are certainly very conscious of perceptions of the government, and that is why they were reluctant to impose direct rule before now and have waited so long,” she told News agencies
“I suspect they will take a light touch but, nonetheless, devolution will be suspended.”