Northern Ireland

Mallusk incinerator: Civil Service not planning further appeal

An artist's impression of the proposed waste facility Image copyright Becon Consortium
Image caption An artist's impression of the proposed waste facility

The NI Civil Service has confirmed it does not plan to appeal to the Supreme Court over a judgment preventing the development of a waste incinerator.

In July, a court dismissed an appeal over planning permission that was granted for the incinerator at Mallusk.

The ruling could also have major implications for other decisions taken by civil servants.

Unionist politicians called for the Northern Ireland Secretary to take action on the "decision making limbo".

Planning permission for the £240m facility was approved by a Department for Infrastructure civil servant in 2017.

The High Court later held that it had been unlawfully authorised.

The Civil Service has now confirmed it will not appeal.

The High Court ruled senior civil servant, Peter May, had no power to approve the planning application in the absence of a Stormont government.

Northern Ireland has been without a government since the power-sharing institutions collapsed in January 2017.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the decision not to appeal "should be a siren for the government to take action" over the "decision-making limbo in Northern Ireland".

Image caption DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was time for the UK government to act over Northern Ireland's lack of a government

"There are fresh examples arising virtually daily where people in Northern Ireland are suffering because decisions cannot be taken," she said.

"They range from school building projects to public sector pay through to reforming how our healthcare operates."

Why is Northern Ireland without a government?

Northern Ireland has been without a government since January 2017, when the governing parties - the DUP and Sinn Féin - split in a bitter row.

Martin McGuinness, the then deputy first minister, resigned in protest of the handling of the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

Since then, the two parties have remained far apart over crucial issues such as Sinn Féin's desire for legislation to give official status to the Irish language in Northern Ireland, rights for same-sex couples to marry and Troubles legacy issues.

Several rounds of talks to restore government at Stormont have so far failed while the UK government has resisted calls to institute direct rule from Westminster.

'Must step up'

Nichola Mallon, the deputy leader of the SDLP, said she welcomed the decision by the Department for Infrastructure.

She added: "A huge amount of public money has already been wasted trying to defend the indefensible.

"This incinerator should never have been approved in the first place".

Ulster Unionist Party chief whip Steve Aiken said his party also welcomed the news, but called on Mrs Bradley to help to end Northern Ireland's state of "political paralysis".

He said: "The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland must step up.

"If she does not think she can bring forward an initiative that will see devolution restored in the near future, then UK government ministers must be appointed to provide leadership and take decisions in key areas of urgent need."

The Court of Appeal judges had ruled that the waste facility was "controversial" and "significant".

Image caption The controversial project was planned for Hightown Quarry near Glengormley

"It would be contrary to the letter and spirit of the (Good Friday) Agreement and the 1998 (Northern Ireland) Act for such decisions to be made by departments in the absence of a minister," they said.

The court also said the decision was a "cross-cutting decision" that involved several departments.

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