Minister sings from Bedknobs And Broomsticks to sum up Stormont talks

A Northern Ireland Minister regaled peers with a verse from the musical film Bedknobs And Broomsticks to describe recent roundtable talks on Stormont’s powersharing crisis.

Lord Duncan of Springbank earned himself a rare round of applause from the red benches for his short rendition of A Step In The Right Direction, the Angela Lansbury number from the 1971 Disney film.

The Tory frontbencher resorted to song to give his assessment at Westminster of last Friday’s meeting in Belfast involving the five main Stormont parties and UK and Irish governments, which failed to chart a way forward.

The discussions came two years after the last DUP/Sinn Fein-led coalition imploded amid a row over a botched green energy scheme.

The wrangle over the renewable heat incentive (RHI) was soon overtaken by disputes over the Irish language, the region’s ban on same sex marriage and the toxic legacy of the Troubles.

A number of attempts to find a negotiated deal to restore the institutions have ended in failure.

Speaking in the upper chamber, Lord Duncan made no attempt to conceal his frustration at the continuing impasse at Stormont.

Presenting a legislative order on appointments in the absence of a devolved government, the Minister said he would “dearly” like to make progress.

He told peers: “I am tired of giving the same speech over and over again, you are tired of giving the same speech over and over again.”

Referring to the recent talks at Stormont House, Lord Duncan said: “I was trying to find a way of how to describe the events of Friday and it wasn’t very easy to find a positive way of doing it but I did find one way.

“Many of you here will be an age when you can remember Angela Lansbury in her prime in Bedknobs And Broomsticks.

“And she sang a song ‘After all, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s a step in the right direction after all’.”

He then gave a rendition of the song to peers and was rewarded with a round of clapping in the upper chamber.

Lord Duncan added: “The rest of the song I will not sing. But I will merely note that it’s a reminder that even small steps as long as they are taken in the right direction can make us go forward.

“I hope that step taken on Friday is a small step in that right direction and I hope it will lead to some serious movement.”

The talks ended, as expected, without a meeting of minds on any of the outstanding issues.

With the UK Government reluctant to reintroduce direct rule from Westminster, Northern Ireland has operated in a political limbo land for two years, with senior civil servants being left to run public services.

However, those mandarins have found themselves seriously hamstrung, with ongoing uncertainty over what decisions they are able to make in the absence of elected ministers.

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