Britain set to take further budgetary control of Northern Ireland

Karen Bradley raised the prospect of cutting assembly members’ pay if an executive cannot be formed. (Getty Images)
Updated 21 February 2018

Britain set to take further budgetary control of Northern Ireland

LONDON: Britain must take steps toward setting a budget for Northern Ireland while it explores whether agreement can be reached to restore the province’s power-sharing government, the British minister for the region said on Tuesday.
The province has for over a year been without a devolved executive that was central to a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of violence. Talks between the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Irish nationalists Sinn Fein to end that stalemate broke down yet again last week.
Britain has already moved toward governing the region directly for the first time in a decade, setting a budget late last year that runs until the end of March, and minister Karen Bradley also raised the prospect on Tuesday of cutting assembly members’ pay if an executive cannot be formed.
“We will continue to explore with the parties whether the basis for a political agreement still exists. That is this government’s clear hope and desire,” Karen Bradley told Britain’s parliament.
“However, things in Northern Ireland cannot stay in a state of limbo... I intend to take steps to provide clarity on the budget... In the absence of devolution, it is also right that we consider the issue of salaries for assembly members.”
Both the British and Irish governments have said they want to get talks back on track but neither have suggested when the two sides should return to the negotiating table.
Many fear a return to full British direct rule would further destabilize a delicate balance between nationalists and unionists who, until the triggering of snap elections last year, had run the province together since 2007.
Northern Ireland’s political future is also tied up with wider negotiations on Britain’s divorce from the European Union, which will determine whether a physical infrastructure will be required to control the border between the province and the Republic of Ireland.
Bradley said London would not shirk its responsibilities to provide political stability in the region longer term but would only do so once all other viable options had been exhausted, including her statutory obligation to consider calling fresh elections.


Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

The wreckage of the car where six French aid workers, their local guide and the driver were killed by unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2020

Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

  • Attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group of aid workers as they drove through the giraffe reserve
  • France has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert

NIAMEY: French and Nigerien soldiers searched through a giraffe reserve and the surrounding area in Niger on Monday for traces of the gunmen who killed six French aid workers, a French military source said.
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor also opened an investigation into the incident, in which attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group as it drove through the reserve located 65 km (40 miles) from the capital Niamey — an area considered safe by the Niger government.
The French aid workers were employed by the charity ACTED. A local driver working for the relief group and a guide were also killed. ACTED called the murders “senseless and cowardly.”
“This heinous crime must not go unpunished, nor will it distract us from our commitment to support the people of Niger,” said ACTED, which has worked to help vulnerable populations in the country since 2010.
No one has claimed responsibility for the assault. But France and other countries have warned people against traveling to parts of Niger where militants including Boko Haram and an affiliate of Daesh operate.
“Military operations are ongoing today,” the military source said.
In the clearest sign yet that France believes a militant group was behind the attack, the office of France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said it was launching an investigation on suspicion of the involvement of a terrorist group.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he shared their families’ grief. “Our determination to combat armed terrorist groups is resolute. The fight continues,” Macron tweeted.
The reserve southeast of Niamey is home to West Africa’s last sizeable population of giraffe in the wild. In the wet season, thick green acacia bushes dot the flat, sandy plains.
It is a popular attraction in Niger, a vast country that borders seven states in an unstable region including Libya, Mali, Chad, Algeria and Nigeria.
France, a former colonial power in the region, has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert since 2013. The United States also has soldiers based in Niger.
Nonetheless, militant violence has been on the rise.