A DUP MP has called for direct rule from Westminster rather than “wasting time” by continuing “dead end” talks with Sinn Féin.
In a platform written exclusively for the News Letter, Ian Paisley Jr predicts the appointment of direct rule ministers before the end of the month.
Devolution, he believes, will soon become a “distant memory”.
Mr Paisley accuses Sinn Féin of having “given up on the reality of local people doing real politics,” and of having “chopped to pieces” every “olive branch” offered by the DUP.
Rather than “leading people up a garden path” by continuing talks that aren’t going anywhere, the North Antrim MP contends that the time has now come to move to some form of direct rule from Westminster.
“The fact is, unless Sinn Fein have a radical change of position then talking isn’t going to deliver anything,” he writes.
“We would be far better recognising this now and, instead of wasting the first quarter of this year, move to the appointment of mainland ministers to start the process of running local departments and preparing a budget for the spring.”
Setting out his view of how the weeks ahead will play out, the senior DUP figure writes: “I believe this will unfold in front of us. It will be direct rule in all but name.
“I would expect to see additional mainland ministers appointed before the end of January and decisions about allocations of budget and drafting of a new budget for the upcoming financial year emerging quickly.
“Once this happens direct rule will move on at pace. It’s like the old saying ‘the king is dead, long live the king’.”
Despite his bleak outlook on the prospect of a striking a deal with Sinn Féin, Mr Paisley stressed his party’s continued belief in the benefits of devolution.
“In all sincerity my party believes in devolution and we have demonstrated our ability to cooperate and make the necessary big compromises.”
However, the DUP MP said “that has not been and appears to have little prospect of being reciprocated on Sinn Féin’s side”.