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MLA News

  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    2 PM Friday

    The Prime Minister needs to stop portraying the Brexit backstop as a political and constitutional problem, Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has said.

    Dr Farry was speaking after taking part in an Alliance delegation meeting Theresa May, a discussion he described as "frank". He added they had also raised a number of other issues relating to the political impasse here.

    "We had a very frank discussion with the Prime Minister. It is important she listens to all voices across the community in a balanced way," he said.

    "On Brexit, we stressed the need for her to de-escalate the language around the backstop. In her remarks today, the Prime Minister ramped up the rhetoric and wrongly portrayed it as a political and constitutional problem, rather than presenting it in practical terms. The backstop is only necessary as a safety net until a better arrangement comes along. It is anything but a threat to the Good Friday Agreement, rather it recognises and protects Northern Ireland's unique circumstances.

    "The UK Government has had plenty of time to find a genuine and realistic alternative to the EU's legal text on the backstop, but even at this late stage we are open to considering any different approaches maintaining an open border, protecting the GFA and empowering the local economy.

    "We also called for the Prime Minister to provide leadership in ending the dangerous drift in Northern Ireland politics - a situation that is increasingly being exploited. In particular, we urged her to ensure MLA's salaries are cut and an independent facilitator for talks is appointed as a matter of urgency in order to kickstart a fresh process."
  • Stewart Dickson profile pic 2
    2 PM Friday

    Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has asked the Head of the Civil Service whether a fund for ethnic minority groups is serving its intended purpose, after concerns were raised over which groups were receiving money.

    Several groups who applied to the Minority Ethnic Development Fund (MEDF) have complained about losing funding, adding their belief financing was not reserved exclusively for minority ethnic organisations. Mr Dickson said he has now sought urgent clarification.

    "There is no doubting the MEDF has provided excellent support for many ethnic minority groups," he said.

    "However, concerns have been raised regarding its running, as a number of other groups have been offered funding who are outside of the intended original scope of the fund. While those groups may carry out good work in the community, the result is minority ethnic groups - who are meant to benefit from the fund - will miss out.

    "I have asked David Sterling to outline how the scheme is being managed, who has applied for it and how the awarding of funds fits with the purpose of the scheme. If we do not clarify this situation urgently, we could see disastrous consequences and some organisations could even go to the wall."
  • 8 AM Thursday

    The Leaders of Alliance, Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Green Party said:

    "We are at a crucial point in the Brexit negotiations. Guarantees were given in the Joint Report between the British government and the EU in December that there would be no diminution of rights as a result of Brexit, on the rights of people resident here and that the Good Friday Agreement would be protected.

    "These guarantees have yet to be fully translated into legally binding text and reflected in the Draft Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    1 PM Wednesday

    Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw has called for Ian Paisley MP to consider his position after he was told he was facing a 30-day suspension for breaching parliamentary rules.

    The House of Commons Committee on Standards found Mr Paisley lobbied against a UN resolution on Sri Lanka without disclosing two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan Government. He admitted receiving over £50,000 in hospitality for the trips, which he did not register with Parliament.

    "Public trust in politics in Northern Ireland has never been at a lower ebb thanks to the ongoing impasse at Stormont and a series of scandals. If we are to regain that trust and confidence, each of us need to demonstrate an active commitment to transparency," said Ms Bradshaw.

    "Mr Paisley has let both himself and his constituents down, calling into question his personal integrity and the ability of voters to trust him. Therefore he needs to take on board the overwhelming public response to this matter and consider his position as MP for North Antrim.

    "In the past few days, a number of key matters relating to Brexit have scraped through the House of Commons thanks to a handful of DUP votes. Potentially losing one of those DUP MPs ahead of other important votes in the near future could be of vital importance, but the party needs to look at the bigger picture and decide whether it can continue to back Mr Paisley.

    "It will only need just over 7,500 constituents in North Antrim to sign a petition calling for their MP to step down. If he does not make that decision himself, I'm sure there will be enough voters to make it for him."
  • 7 PM Tuesday

    Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has expressed frustration after MPs narrowly defeated a vote requiring the UK Government to seek a fresh Customs Union with the EU if Brexit trade talks are unsuccessful.

    Dr Farry said the DUP's support of the amendment was "illogical", given the party's stated objective of avoiding new borders in these islands.

    "Once again the House of Commons has passed up a key opportunity to steer the UK towards a much softer Brexit, with less damage on the economy and wider society. Many people, including the Government, are stating their support for avoiding any new borders anywhere in these islands. The UK entering into a fresh Customs Union is one essential component of making that a reality.

    "The decision to rule out the pursuit of a Customs Union even as a Plan B alternative further reinforces fears a catastrophic no-deal outcome is increasingly likely. The most immediate requirement is agreement on the legal text around the backstop for Northern Ireland. Without a Customs Union, the claim the need for the backstop can be avoided becomes increasingly challenging.

    "The approach of the DUP in supporting the Government in voting down a Customs Union is particularly illogical. Some commentators, and even the DUP themselves, have indicated their own real redline is avoiding a customs interface down the Irish Sea. The UK as a whole being in a Customs Union with the EU is a necessary requirement to achieve this. Once again the DUP are acting against the fundamental economic and political interests of Northern Ireland."

  • Chris Lyttle20171
    4 PM Tuesday

    Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle has said if the Secretary of State re-establishes the Policing Board, she should take other decisions to help end the political impasse here.

    Mr Lyttle was speaking after media reports suggested Karen Bradley would bring forward legislation to the House of Commons to re-establish the Board, which currently doesn't have any legal authority to oversee policing due to the collapse of the institutions.

  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    9 PM Monday

    Alliance Brexit Spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said Parliament has undermined the interests of Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement by passing amendments backed by hard Brexiteers.

    The amendment, backed by the Conservative European Research Group and the DUP, gives a legal guarantee there will be no post-Brexit customs border in the Irish Sea. Dr Farry said it meant the Prime Minister "has dug a deeper hole" in the Brexit process.

    "The Government has managed to undermine its own White Paper within less than a week. It was already flawed but now seems doomed. It is further disappointing Parliament sought to rule out any custom checks down the Irish Sea, without the opposition even forcing a division.

    "While that approach seems superficially sensible, it betrays a lack of understanding of the Brexit negotiations, and the interests of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and avoiding a devastating hard border on the island of Ireland.

    "Alliance does not want to see any new borders, barriers or friction anywhere in these islands. The need for a backstop only arises from the decision to leave the EU and as a safety net. It is not a constitutional issue and is consistent with devolution and existing precedents. The backstop does not cut off Northern Ireland from the Great Britain market, rather allowing us to more easily be part of both the UK and EU economies.

    "The UK and EU has already signed up to the backstop in the December Joint Report. The backstop is only available for Northern Ireland. It is not on offer UK-wide. Finalising legal text is now the key issue for the Withdrawal Agreement and Transition deal. All other issues in the White Paper relate to the UK-EU future relationship.

    "So this amendment therefore makes it difficult to see how any Withdrawal Agreement can be finalised and along with it any transition deal. Any no deal outcome would be catastrophic. But unless the UK Government can perform a U-turn, this is where we are heading. Time is running out."

  • Stephen Farry
    10 AM Monday

    Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said a proposed amendment to the Customs Bill by Jacob Rees-Mogg and supported by the DUP risks crashing the UK economy.

    Dr Farry said the amendment, which seeks to rule out any customs checks down the Irish Sea, would remove any prospect of a Withdrawal Agreement and essentially guarantee a no deal Brexit.

    "Alliance does not want to see any new borders, barriers or friction anywhere in these islands. The clear ways to avoid this are either through the UK remaining within the EU or opting for a genuine soft Brexit based around a new Customs Union and membership of the European Economic Area.

    "At present, the backstop only arises from the decision to leave the EU, the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement and to avoid a hard border in Ireland. It is an insurance policy, only coming into play if no solution is provided to keeping the border open. It is not a constitutional issue and is consistent with devolution and existing precedents. The backstop does not cut off Northern Ireland from the Great Britain market, rather it allows us to more easily be part of both the UK and EU economies.

    "The UK and EU has already signed up to the backstop in the December Joint Report. Finalising legal text is now the key issue for the Withdrawal Agreement and Transition deal. All other issues in the White Paper relate to the UK-EU future relationship.

    "Therefore, it needs to be clearly spelt out the passage of this amendment would remove any prospect of a Withdrawal Agreement and would be tantamount to guaranteeing a no deal outcome. While this may appeal to some ideological Brexiteers, it would amount to crashing the UK economy. Business organisations and many individual employers have been clear on this. So there would be severe implications for many people's jobs and livelihoods.

    "For Northern Ireland, the consequences would be particularly severe, and there would be major implications for political stability."

  • last Wednesday

    The leaders of all the main political parties have united to condemn violence and to appeal for calm.

    A joint statement on behalf of the leaders said:

    "Attacks on the police have been on-going for a number of days alongside other violence including sectarian attacks on houses, petrol bombs thrown at the police, intimidation of contractors, vehicles hi-jacked and attacks on sheltered accommodation.

    "The shots fired last night were a clear and obvious attempt to murder police officers. There must be a strong, clear and united voice against those who would engage in such disgraceful violence.

    "As a society we must all stand with those who maintain law and order and who protect all sides of our community.

    "We condemn any illegal activity and urge those who are damaging their own community and intimidating their neighbours to stop. We would urge people to work with the Police to bring those involved in criminality to justice.

    "We want to see a society where people can live together without the threat of intimidation or violence. Those who engage in such tactics must be shown that they will not succeed."

  • last Wednesday

    Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has said people need to stand together after shots were fired at police during more trouble in Derry-Londonderry.

    Ms Long was speaking after at least six shots were fired in the Bogside area during another night of trouble. Petrol bombs and paint bombs were also thrown into the Fountain estate, marking the latest in a series of attacks on residents there. Chief Inspector Neil Beck said it was "a blatant bid to murder police officers".

    "I utterly condemn this violence. Those behind it are abusing local residents," she said.

    "It is not wanted by the wider community and I appeal to anyone who knows the people involved, in the rioting itself and also orchestrating it, to work with the PSNI to get them arrested and off the streets.

    "The entire community, both in Derry-Londonderry and wider afield, needs to stand together against those dissident republicans who are exploiting sectarian divisions to create tension and cause confrontation with the PSNI."

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