I visited Belfast last week to discuss the current situation at Stormont as Chairman of the NI Affairs Committee. I held individual meetings with all the Party leaders, including the First and Deputy First Ministers, and with the Chief Constable. I have also been in regular contact with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Much has been achieved in Northern Ireland in the last twenty years, but problems still remain. The recent political difficulties, including a failure to agree a budget within the Assembly, and continuing paramilitary activity on both sides, pose threats to the institutions. I also believe there are faults in the design of the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland. However, it is far better for decisions to be taken by local people in the Province, rather than in committee rooms at Westminster, as used to be the case, so I urge all those participating in the current talks to bear this in mind.