BBC News: Vernon Coaker says NIO should be retained

BBC News: Vernon Coaker says NIO should be retained


Vernon Coaker
Vernon Coaker said the role of secretary of state should remain a full-time post, despite devolution.

The Northern Ireland Office and the role of secretary of state should be retained, the shadow Secretary of State, Vernon Coaker, has said.


He was responding to comments from Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, who said it was time to abolish both.


The deputy first minister of Northern Ireland made the remarks during a speech in London on Monday.


Mr Coaker said it was important that the people of Northern Ireland had a voice to represent them at Westminster.


The Labour MP said Northern Ireland's position within the UK had been determined by the wishes of the people in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (GFA).


Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, he said there was now a political settlement "which has devolved significant powers to Northern Ireland, but also, there are powers retained in London and it's important that there is a voice for Northern Ireland in London which is putting forward Northern Ireland's case with respect to those powers which still remain at Westminster".


Mr McGuinness had argued that the transfer of the remaining powers of the NIO to Northern Ireland's devolved political institutions would provide a "massive vote of confidence" in the peace process and and a "massive saving" to the UK exchequer.


In response, the shadow secretary said that Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness were doing "excellent work" as first and deputy first ministers in representing Northern Ireland.


However, he added: "It's not a case of replacing those people or saying that you can do better than them.


"It's about saying that you want to work with them, you want to stand with them in arguing for the best possible policy decisions to be made for Northern Ireland," he said.


Mr Coaker also said he thought the role of secretary of state should remain a full-time post, despite devolution.


"I think the people in Northern Ireland would expect that recognition, would expect that status to be given to somebody who is supposed to be representing their interests in London," he told Good Morning Ulster.


He argued that political parties in Great Britain should act as "guarantors" of the GFA and the subsequent St Andrew's Agreement and Hillsborough Agreement, which devolved more powers to Northern Ireland.


He said they should "do all that we can to support the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK government in ensuring that we build a fairer more prosperous future for the people of Northern Ireland whilst they want to stay a part of the UK".

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