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MLA News

  • Kellie Armstrong
    last Thursday

    Alliance Strangford MLA Kellie Armstrong has said the South-Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) is failing to provide appropriate domiciliary care for older patients along the Ards Peninsula.

    Ms Armstrong said she had been approached by several constituents who were concerned about older family members being left without such care for weeks on end. She added the situation was pushing many older people into financial difficulties, as they had to provide their own care due to the SEHSCT being "unable or unwilling" to do so.

    "The SEHSCT has a statutory duty to provide care but have done little to nothing to address the lack of provision currently available in rural areas. One reason given to me was the contracted care provider has pulled out, which could be acceptable if this issue wasn't a growing one for the past few months.

    "The number of people without a permanent care package here has been growing - with over 60 now - but to date, the SEHSCT has been unable to get a regular care provider, instead relying on circulating particular 'cases' on a list which may or may not be picked up by care providers, who have the capacity to temporarily do the work.

    "I have been told the SEHSCT don't have the staff available to provide emergency care for rural areas, despite providing emergency care for larger towns in the areas such as Newtownards. It appears no consideration has been given to rural-proof provision to ensure rural dwellers receive an equal level of care as their peers living in towns.

    "Constituents have informed me in a number of case the SEHSCT's solution was to offer to move the older person into residential care, which is not a practical solution - it would involve the older person being moved to a home many miles from their family, alongside fears their home may be sold to pay for care.

    "The SEHSCT does not appear to consider the impact on the individual, being more concerned with blaming the contractor, the cost or moving the person into residential care miles from where they live. The Ards Peninsula is only one area, but I am concerned this is being repeated in other rural areas. Our older people are being failed by a system which should be protecting and caring for them."
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    last Wednesday

    Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has said the Secretary of State did not go far enough in providing certainty as to how decisions can be taken, after he set out spending allocations to Northern Ireland Departments.

    Dr Farry said James Brokenshire's intervention was "sadly inevitable" given the failure of political parties to restore a functioning Executive but added it was "the absolute bare minimum the Secretary of State should be doing at this stage".

    "Alliance would much prefer these decisions would be taken by a local Executive but our political process remains in an unnecessary and destructive deadlock. Public services do need to be able to continue to function.

    "It must be clearly understood real damage to our economy and public services has already occurred. Major investments and reforms have been delayed in the absence of any devolved Executive. Bearing in mind the tight public expenditure context, every day entails opportunity costs in terms of any strategic approach to spending decisions and frustrates efficiency and effectiveness in terms of spending decisions.

    "Civil servants remain in an unclear legal situation in terms of taking spending and other decisions in the absence of any ministerial control. Difficult choices inevitably have to be made, as most Departments remain in a situation where cuts to public expenditure are having to be made in order for the books to balance.

    "This hiatus now seems destined to stretch into October at the earliest. It will be increasingly hard for Permanent Secretaries and others to rely on the legacy positions of outgoing Ministers from the beginning of 2017. Alliance believes the Secretary of State could have gone further and legislated to provide a clearer interim framework for decision-making.

    "But the reason why we are in this mess lies with the failures of some local parties. And it is frustrating deep problems in health and education, and a pause in our economic transformation, have not provided an impetus to a resolution of current political difficulties."
  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    last Wednesday

    The lack of a functioning Executive is preventing the tackling of the crisis in health, Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said.

    The South Belfast MLA said the Health and Wellbeing 2026 vision, which was launched by then-Health Minister Michelle O'Neill last year, needed implemented urgently, with one increasingly important area of concern being prostate cancer. She added improvements in pathways for men with the disease are now being delayed by the failure of the big parties to agree a route forward.

    "Our health service is in desperate need of reform - no one can argue that. This plan has the chance to do that but first it must be given the opportunity. Without an Executive providing political direction, it will not get off the ground. Every day we go by without a functioning government, more people go on suffering.

    "I had meetings this week in relation to prostate cancer, which will be the most common form of cancer in Northern Ireland within the next 15 years. There, we find inadequate pathways, postcode lotteries, and nearly 100 men having to travel to England every year for vital surgery.

    "The core issues are much the same as with many other conditions - we need improved workforce planning, better use of facilities, and a more responsible balance between local clinics and specialist treatment centres.

    "Our system of government is such that two parties are required to agree for an Executive to be formed. With those large mandates come large responsibility. For our part, Alliance will continue to work hard through the summer to ensure an Executive is restored urgently and issues such as prostate cancer are tackled with the diligence needed."

  • Chris Lyttle20172
    last Tuesday

    Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle has said he is disappointed after it was confirmed there will be no official handover to Northern Ireland during the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Youth Games.

    The announcement was made by the Commonwealth Games Federation due to the current political deadlock and lack of agreed money by the Executive, meaning Northern Ireland would play no part in the ceremony this weekend in the Bahamas, despite being scheduled to host the event in 2021.

    "The Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council (NICGC) is ready to deliver a superb games which would showcase this region on a global scale, while inspiring a generation of young athletes and volunteers. It is a disgrace the Executive failed to provide the support necessary to provide for this event, meaning we will now miss out on the traditional handover.

    "The former Minister for the Economy Simon Hamilton has serious questions to answer as to when he was in receipt of the outcome of the business case in relation to the games and if there were any issues, why they were not escalated to the rest of the Executive. That would have allowed the will of the Assembly - to host these games - to be taken into account.

    "I have facilitated meetings between the NICGC and the Head of the Civil Service in order to seek movement on this issue. Regrettably, Ministerial authority was still needed to deliver on the clear support. It is unacceptable this situation has been allowed to develop - the young athletes deserve an explanation as to why from former Minister Hamilton."
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    10 July
    Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry has said there is a need for police to investigate a man who said he was part of the group responsible for the Birmingham bombings.

    Michael Christopher Hayes said he was sorry for the innocent people killed when two devices went off in pubs in the city centre in November 1974 but refused to say who planted them. He added he defused a third bomb in the city.

    "My foremost thoughts are with the survivors and loved ones of victims of the Birmingham bombs. This news will no doubt have brought memories of that atrocity back to them," said Dr Farry.

    "There is now a need for police to follow up these comments and to further investigate these atrocities. It is also incumbent upon Michael Hayes to name those he was working with when these bombs were planted.

    "These revelations further reinforce the ongoing need for justice and truth recovery to always remain on the agenda. People involved in terrorist activity may wish to come forward with the passage of time, and new evidence can be uncovered.

    "It demonstrates the need for progress on the legacy of the past, and the implementation of the comprehensive set of structures and mechanisms set out in the Stormont House Agreement."

  • David Ford
    6 July

    David Ford MLA has accused other parties of "empty words" after it emerged only Alliance has called for the publication of political donations here to be backdated to 2014.

    Mr Ford was speaking after the Secretary of State finally published responses from local parties to his consultation on bringing donations rules here into line with the rest of the UK. James Brokenshire announced this week donations would be published but only from July 1, 2017.

    This decision is despite Naomi Long previously changing legislation at Westminster which meant the publication could be backdated to January 2014. The publication of the letters by the Secretary of State, which came after pressure from Alliance and media outlets, show Alliance were the only party to request this backdating.

    "These letters show other parties are only paying lip service to transparency and are full of empty words when they say they wish to be fully clear in their dealings. Only Alliance, alongside the Green Party, publish our donations voluntarily and we have done for some time. There is nothing stopping other parties doing so immediately if they so wished.

    "The Secretary of State has a duty to show leadership and stand up for the integrity of local politics. He should have noted the opinions of local parties on this issue and then shown that leadership by publishing donations backdated to 2014. It is the only conclusion anyone looking at this issue with a clear, neutral view could reach.

    "Security reasons being cited for not backdating the publication are bogus - thanks to Naomi Long's legislation, anyone who has donated to a political party here since January 2014 knew their details could be published at a future date. Alliance has also continued to publish our donations, even throughout the campaign of violence against our party.

    "By not backdating the publication of donations here, James Brokenshire has given in and allowed those with self-interest in keeping these details hidden to make the call for him. He should be ashamed and the public should ask what those parties have got to hide."
  • Chris Lyttle20172
    6 July

    Alliance Education spokesperson Chris Lyttle has said families have been let down by the DUP and Sinn Fein after it was revealed money to help pay for school uniforms could be cut by the Department of Education (DE).

    The Education Authority said the DE had instructed them to cut the amount given to low income families by £3 million due to "major financial pressures" in its budget. Mr Lyttle, who was Deputy Chair of the Education Committee before the collapse of the Assembly, said the lack of an Executive had exacerbated the issue.

    "There are mounting pressures in education, from the potential cut in special educational needs provision to transport matters, but it would be an absolute disgrace to see any reduction in the school uniform grant. The cost of school uniforms is already difficult for many families to meet and this move could place them further in hardship.

    "In my role as Deputy Chair, I called the Education Minister to the Committee to warn him directly about the impending crisis which was possible down the line due to issues with the education budget.

    "The families affected by this matter have been let down by the DUP and Sinn Fein, who refuse to form an Executive despite these mounting issues. If this is not a priority for those parties, then families who benefited from this grant will be left as casualties."
  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    5 July

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has warned delays in reforming legislation relating to the Fire and Rescue Service caused by the current political vacuum may put lives at risk.

    The South Belfast MLA said there was a gap in regulations meaning a multi-occupied building with only domestic premises, such as was the case in the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, would not fall under anyone's jurisdiction once the building is occupied.
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    4 July

    Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry has said today is a "sad and frustrating one" after the talks process was suspended until the autumn but added his party remained willing to engage over the summer months and beyond.

    Dr Farry said more urgent intervention was needed from the UK Government to address budget issues and give greater clarity on the powers of civil servants to take urgent decisions due to the lack of Ministers.

    "The suspension of the talks reflects the failure of the two largest parties to face up to the responsibilities they have been given by the electorate," he said.

    "Whatever the differences of the DUP and Sinn Fein, they need to reflect if they are bigger than the damage being done to our local economy and public services coming from a prolonged political impasse. It is sad and frustrating Northern Ireland will not have any coherent government for most of 2017. This absence also comes at a time when we need our own voice around Brexit - a challenge that affects this region more acutely than any other.

    "Alliance remains available for engagement in any talks format at any time. While it may seem a suspension of the talks is inevitable given the DUP and Sinn Fein have negotiated themselves into a dead-end, it is important to consider other approaches, including bringing in a mediator to facilitate.

    "Northern Ireland only works best when we have devolution and control over our local affairs. Given the divided nature of our society, we need shared government and recognition of our interdependence.

    "It is sad it has become inevitable the UK Government must urgently intervene to take some degree of control over local affairs. This is the only responsible thing to do and cannot wait - it will give some degree of certainty around budgets and to enable decisions to be taken. To leave a political vacuum would mean further waste of resources and the further deterioration in a range of public services.

    "We have been alarmed at the complacency towards this both inside and outside of government. But even confirming budgets, and allocating the Barnett consequentials, is in itself not enough. There must be clarification on the framework in which civil servants can take decisions in the absence of ministers - there are simply too many decisions that just cannot wait.

    "It is important the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement is protected during this interim phase, and in particular the views, engagement and co-operation with the Irish Government continues in appropriate areas, consistent with the principle of consent."
  • Talks deadline June 2013 Stormont Castle glasshouse
    29 June

    Alliance Leader Naomi Long has said her party is "extremely frustrated and disappointed" following the latest deadline to restore power-sharing being missed today (Thursday).

    She said the public's patience had been "tested well beyond breaking point" by the lack of a breakthrough in the process, a move which would have "serious consequences," she added.

    "There has been no ministerial direction within Departments for a number of months, with decisions on how to allocate budgets being missed, all of which has a direct impact on public services and jobs. While some people who were elected to this Assembly are refusing to do their jobs, there are people who elected them to that position who are losing theirs. That is not an acceptable position.

    "Alliance will not walk away from the negotiations but we are clear this a serious development - there has been a breach of trust by the larger parties in not reaching agreement before this deadline. That has tested the public's patience well beyond breaking point. Those parties with the largest mandates need to now also accept the size of their responsibilities and deliver for those who voted for them. Get the deal done, get the Assembly re-established and get the Ministers back into office.

    "We are standing on the precipice of crises in health and education, as well as the potential loss of devolution in the long-term. Every hour that slips by deepens that crisis. Alliance sought the authority of our Party Council to compromise and make a good deal to deliver the five-party Executive others claim they wanted to deliver. We lived up to our mandate, now it's time others followed suit."

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