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MLA News

  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    6:27 PM

    Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has welcomed MPs approving a non-binding motion saying the UK should be in a customs union with the EU.

    The motion was passed without a vote in the House of Commons today (Thursday), which followed a more formal but similar vote in the House of Lords last week.

    "While this was a non-binding motion, it gives a strong indication there is majority backing in the House of Commons for the UK to enter a customs union with the EU," said Dr Farry.

    "This situation should encourage the UK Government to rethink their overall position on Brexit. It is clear they have boxed themselves into a corner with contradictory commitments to three positons, only two of which can be achieved at any one time - to avoid a hard border within the island of Ireland, for the UK as whole to leave both the customs union and the single market, and to rule out any special arrangements for Northern Ireland in relation to a customs union and single market.

    "The UK being in a customs union is a necessary but not in itself sufficient step to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. It is, however, in the overall economic interest of the UK. Business organisations, most notably the CBI, have been vocal in calling for the Government to be in a customs union in order to place the interests of the UK economy first and foremost."

  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    11:44 AM

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has warned the outcome of a survey of emergency medicine consultants demonstrates the necessity to deliver health reforms outlined in the Bengoa Report.

    Ms Bradshaw was speaking after the results of the survey by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine of more than 70 per cent of Northern Ireland's 88 emergency medicine consultants. Among its findings, 91 per cent of respondents do not believe it is sustainable working in emergency care in the current environment.

    She said if the Bengoa proposals were not delivered, emergency care will be put under "intolerable strain".

    "This should serve as a wake-up call to those who profess to want good government here. The survey stated some consultants feel ashamed and appalled by the state of emergency medicine here - those parties with the power to form an Executive should be the ones ashamed and appalled, not those working in the system.

    "Ultimately, people were elected with large mandates in March 2017 to take responsibility for delivering good government, including transformation of the health system to ensure the improvement of emergency care. As yet another round of talks begin, it is time those who received the biggest mandates took on the responsibility which comes with them and focused on the issues which affect our daily lives.

    "If we are to implement these reforms, we need to recognise we currently look at the issue the wrong way around. Staff numbers are inadequate to cope with demand, but we should emphasise the key is to channel demand more effectively so fewer people end up requiring emergency care.

    "I want to see transformation delivered so patients accessing health and social care receive better, faster treatment - and so those working within the system have an improved working environment."

  • Kellie Armstrong
    3 PM yesterday

    Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has said rural areas in particular need to benefit from improved broadband after it was announced political parties would shortly be consulted on how best to use money to improve it here.


    The Department for the Economy said preparation work, including engagement with political parties and industry stakeholders, is under way for the spending of £150 million, delivered as part of the DUP's deal with the Conservative Government but yet to be released.

    "The money identified has not yet been released. The tenders to enable work to commence have also not yet been drawn up. So while getting additional money for services is one thing, being able to put it to use is entirely another matter," she said.

    "Alliance has engaged in a number of meetings with broadband providers to try and get better services for residents, particularly in rural areas. The key issue has been lack of access to broadband. This investment could enable many rural residents to finally have access and could increase broadband speed for constituencies like Strangford. Improving access to broadband will not only help residents but also businesses and the economy as a whole, benefiting everyone in Northern Ireland.

    "It is important rural areas in particular see a benefit, as many currently have limited or no broadband provision. We now have the opportunity to prioritise rural access to broadband. However, the company that wins the contract will need to be able to deliver our priority objectives within the timescales which limit how this money will be spent."
  • David Ford profile pic 2
    9 AM yesterday

    David Ford MLA has welcomed the impending publication of an inter-Departmental report which recommends changes in abortion law here.


    The working group on fatal foetal abnormality, set up before the election in May 2016, will recommend the 'law be changed to provide for termination of pregnancy where an abnormality is of such a nature as to be likely to cause death either before birth, during birth or in the early period after birth'. The full report will be published by the Department of Justice and Department of Health today (Wednesday).

    Mr Ford, who attempted to bring changes to the law when Justice Minister, said it was long overdue.

    "The report provides full justification for the actions I took as Minister of Justice to allow abortion in cases where the foetus has no prospect of a viable life. I believe that would have eased the trauma some women go through every year, though - of course - any such decision would have been for the individual woman based on a full medical assessment.

    "Unfortunately, the Executive blocked my proposals, which were based on firm evidence from a detailed consultation process. The question needs to be asked of how many women have suffered since I made a promise to Sarah Ewart I would try to change the law some years ago.

    "While we unfortunately have no Executive currently in place to take this forward, I believe we now have irrefutable evidence of the need to legislate to allow women in Northern Ireland to access abortion in the traumatic circumstances where they are given a diagnosis a child will not survive."
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 2
    4 PM Tuesday

    Alliance has raised a number of concerns over paramilitary activity with the body designed to monitor progress on tackling it here.


    Party Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA and former Justice Minister David Ford MLA met the Independent Reporting Commission (IRC) today (Tuesday). The IRC was created as part of the Fresh Start Agreement and charts progress of Executive's action plan on paramilitarism.

    Dr Farry said he welcomed the engagement with the body.

    "We welcome the role the IRC plays in monitoring the implementation of the Executive's plan, as well as assessing progress towards the end of paramilitary activity and creating a culture of lawfulness.

    "Alliance previously welcomed the May 2016 report on the disbandment of paramilitary groups but also expressed concerns on the level of strategic buy-in from Government as a whole, as well as a lack of clarity around resources given to it, timescales and measurement of progress on the Executive's action plan, all of which we raised in today's meeting.

    "We also mentioned the need for the focus to be put on the disbandment of paramilitary structures as opposed to their transformation into pseudo-community organisations, to empower the communities and make sure all voices are heard, not marginalised by dominant paramilitary strongmen. We need to see an end to the coercive control these organisations have on the communities, acting as gatekeepers.

    "There has been a lack of progress on developing a protocol for public agencies to deal with paramilitary structures and their legacy at a community level, as well as no acknowledgment on how reductions in levels of community policing due to budget cuts are contrary to the need for visible policing in areas most affected by paramilitary violence.

    "Alliance stressed the rule of law requires not only putting an end to criminal activity but also full cooperation with the police and criminal justice agencies. I hope the IRC's first report, due to the published this autumn, emphasises continued membership of paramilitary structures is at odds with that culture of lawfulness, and we must see a focus on disbandment of paramilitaries."
  • Stewart Dickson profile pic 1
    2 PM Tuesday

    Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has expressed his dismay at a new report showing foodbank usage in Northern Ireland remains high.


    The Trussell Trust charity published the report, entitled Left Behind: Is Universal Credit Truly Universal, today. It showed their foodbanks gave out 32,433 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis between April 2017 and March 2018.

    While it represents a one per cent decrease locally on the previous year, during the same period UK-wide the charity distributed 1,332,952 three-day emergency food supplies, a 13 per cent increase on the previous year.

    "The Trussell Trust have always had my support in the work they do alleviating hunger in our communities. But while the service they provide is an invaluable lifeline to families, the reality is more must be done to tackle the causes of food poverty," said Mr Dickson.

    "It sadly appears UK Government actions are only contributing to food crises, with the adverse impact of the initial wait for benefits, the lack of available statutory support, the inability of Universal Credit payments to cover the cost of living for people who most need it and poor administration all avoidable, yet there is a failure to recognise these problems.

    "Pushing people further into poverty is not only nonsensical and immoral, it ends up costing the Government more money due to the further social issues that result. It's time the Government reset benefit payments at a sustainable level so claimants can live with dignity and stability."
  • David Ford20172
    12 PM Tuesday

    Alliance MLA David Ford has welcomed news a review has been launched into how the criminal justice system here deals with serious sexual offence cases.


    The review, which Mr Ford called for last week in the wake of the recent high-profile rape trial in Belfast, will be led by former judge Sir John Gillen. It is expected to examine issues such as the disclosure of evidence and the level of support provided to complainants, victims and witnesses, and is due to be completed by January 2019.

    "Last week, I wrote to leaders of the other political parties here asking them to join with me in calling for a review of how criminal law operates in these cases and what lessons can be learned from it relating to many issues, including the investigation and prosecution processes, the provision of anonymity for defendants, having an open public gallery, the use of social media from the courtroom and procedures for cross-questioning witnesses by several defence counsel.

    "I therefore welcome this news from the Department of Justice on this initiative by senior officials and the Lord Chief Justice. There is undoubtedly a pressing need to provide protections for both complainants and defendants in what is a difficult area.

    "There are a number of lessons need to be learned from the recent trial at Belfast Crown Court and I am confident Sir John Gillen will do a thorough job in looking at them. It is also important anyone who has concerns about this issue brings it forward and contributes to the review."
  • Naomi Long
    10 AM Tuesday

    Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has said an independent facilitator should be appointed to chair all-party talks without further delay.


    The East Belfast MLA was speaking ahead of planned meetings with Secretary of State Karen Bradley and Tánaiste Simon Coveney, and the other party leaders this week to discuss the ongoing impasse. She said the drift which has been ongoing since talks collapsed in February cannot continue any longer.

    "Another week has passed since the Secretary of State announced there would be further concentrated efforts to restore power-sharing devolution, yet there has been no indication that the Governments have decided where to go from here," she said.

    "Alliance's Next Steps Forward document put proposals to both Governments and the other parties which still represent the best chance of resolving the ongoing political stand-off. Key to our proposals was an independent facilitator, something which we first called for a year ago. In June we supplied a list of individuals, of national and international standing, who we felt may be able to assist. On each occasion when we raised this, we were told the talks were close to concluding and it would be disruptive to bring someone in from outside.

    "That is clearly not the case now - there is simply no activity to disrupt. We now have a window of opportunity to appoint a facilitator who can start to engage with all parties ahead of the summer, get up to speed with all of the issues and start to structure the intensive work required to restore the institutions.

    "The last round of talks ended in bitter recriminations, with claims and counter-claims exchanged between the two main parties, reinforcing the need for independent oversight of any new process. Only the appointment of a facilitator can start to rebuild trust between the parties, inject some urgency and direction into the process, and provide the public with reassurances those they elected are living up to their responsibilities to make devolution work."
  • Paula Bradshaw
    8 AM Tuesday

    Alliance South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw has welcomed the commencement of the construction of new sporting facilities at Malone College.

    Ms Bradshaw stated: "There is no doubt the new sports hall and 3G pitch will make Malone College not just an even more attractive proposition for pupils and parents, but will cement its place within the local community.

    "I know the school has been planning this upgrade for some time and it is great to see it coming to fruition. Over this severe winter we have seen the huge value of modern 3G pitches demonstrated.

    "Malone College continues to go from strength to strength and we can now expect these new facilities to enhance it further from January."

  • Paula Bradshaw profile pic 2
    11 AM Monday

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has backed moves by the UK Government to try and reduce the cost of a life-changing cystic fibrosis drug and make it available on the NHS across the UK.

    Health Ministers have urged pharmaceutical company Vertex Pharmaceuticals to drop this price of its Orkambi drug, which has been shown in clinical trials to improve lung function and respiratory symptoms in people with cystic fibrosis.

    "I have made the case for making Orkambi, a life-changing drug which could improve the lives of thousands across the UK, available through Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board commissioning," said Ms Bradshaw.

    "Currently the cost of the drug, at over £100,000 per patient per year, has proved prohibitive and it has not been made available on the NHS. There is a challenge for us all here, because it is inevitable drugs for rarer conditions will come at higher cost. However, given the success of clinical trials, we absolutely must get people with cystic fibrosis the drugs and treatment they need.

    "People with the condition simply do not have time for a protracted negotiation - even 'soon' is not quick enough. I would urge the drug manufacturer and the UK Government to reach a resolution quickly over the coming days so the drug can be made available swiftly across the UK."

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