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MLA News

  • Stephen Farry profile pic 2
    2 PM yesterday

    Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said he is "encouraged" by agreement of EU and UK on the Brexit Joint Report, as it aims to protect the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border.

    Dr Farry was speaking after the EU agreed to move Brexit talks onto their second phase. The Joint Report, agreed by Prime Minister Theresa May last week, says the UK will be required to permit freedom of movement during any transition period, adding an agreement on the border must be respected and translated into legal terms as quickly as possible.

    "While Brexit remains a deep and fundamental error for the UK as a whole, it is nevertheless important the Brexit negotiations progress as smoothly as possible to achieve the best possible outcome. Alliance is encouraged by the text in the Joint Report in relation to Ireland and Northern Ireland. The protection of the Good Friday Agreement and the avoidance of a hard border are now clear fixed objectives.

    "Much more detailed work must now be carried out to build on this foundation. The Report requires far-reaching and imaginative solutions in relation to both the Single Market and Customs Union to deliver the stated objectives. Half-measures will not be sufficient, and legal and governance clarity is essential to give certainty to business and future investors.

    "If the UK as a whole does not opt for a very soft Brexit, then Northern Ireland must remain with the Single Market. Our paper Bridges not Borders set out a solution which recognises both east-west and north-south interactions are of equal importance, and allows us to have a strong foot in both the British and European markets."

  • Paula Bradshaw profile pic 2
    3 PM Wednesday

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said a backdated pay award for health sector walkers is a small step in the right direction.

    Arrangements will be put in place "as soon as possible" for civil servants to implement a wage increase in the absence of an Executive Minister. The payments, which will be backdated, are expected before the end of the financial year.

    Ms Bradshaw said it was only the first stage.

    "Now what is required is a Minister in place to consider how health workers are to be compensated for the rising cost of living, now we have seen a further rise in inflation.

    "Across the public sector, we will also need to determine and deliver a policy which provides for fair play taking account of awards elsewhere in the UK and any ongoing rise in the cost of living arising from the devaluation of sterling.

    "So while this news is good, the fact remains we need Ministers in place delivering fair pay for all."
  • David Ford profile pic 2
    12 PM Tuesday

    Alliance MLA David Ford has welcomed the findings of an inspection report which describes progress at Magilligan Prison as "immensely encouraging".

    The inspection was conducted by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons in England and Wales. It said improvements had been made in a number of key areas and praised the leadership within the prison.

    Former Justice Minister Mr Ford said the reforms, many of which had been put in place while he was in post, were a tribute to staff there.

    "This highlights much of the reform programme started while I was Justice Minister and is a tribute to staff from the Prison Service, the South-Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and North West Regional College, all of whom carried out sterling work to produce positive outcomes for prisoners.

    "It shows what can be achieved despite the poor conditions of many of the buildings. What is now essential is the Department of Finance giving the Department of Justice money for the new build work which has been planned for some years."
  • Chris Lyttle20171
    10 AM Tuesday

    Bengoa-style reform is needed for our education system, Alliance Education spokesperson Chris Lyttle has said.

    East Belfast Alliance MLA Mr Lyttle said the current funding crisis faced by many schools meant teachers and resources were being put under immense pressure. He said the Bengoa Report, a Government-appointed panel led by international expert Professor Rafael Bengoa which made over a dozen recommendations last year on how to make our health service fit for the 21st Century, could provide the basis for a similar comprehensive review of the education system here.

    "I have been inundated with contact from school principals, teachers and parents about the serious impact the school funding crisis is having on our children's education. This includes excessive class sizes, reduced range of subject choices, inadequate Special Educational Needs assistance and poor building maintenance. The Department of Education Permanent Secretary has identified a funding gap of over £100 million, which the Education Authority CEO says will rise to £350 million within the next three years.

    "There have been numerous independent reports and recommendations into the education system here but they have not been adequately implemented. It is now clear we need a comprehensive review of these recommendations and implementation of reform if we are to arrest the ongoing impact of this funding crisis on our schools.

    "The CEO of the Education Authority has suggested in the absence of radical investment or reform, the education system in Northern Ireland will be unaffordable, socially immobile and unfit for purpose for the 21st Century.

    "This should shock everyone in our society and be enough to mobilise public support and demand for the reform necessary to ensure our education system is structured and resourced in a way that allows all our schools to deliver high quality education for all children across Northern Ireland."
  • Paula Bradshaw
    5 PM Monday

    Paula Bradshaw MLA has said she is "beyond delighted" to hear the defect which causes Huntington's Disease has been corrected in patients for the first time.

    An experimental drug, injected into spinal fluid by a team from University College London, safely lowered levels of toxic proteins in the brain. Experts believe it may be the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases in generations.

    Having previously sponsored an event for the Huntington's Disease Association and spoken at their Northern Ireland conference this year, the Alliance Health spokesperson said: "Since becoming an MLA I have worked closely with the Huntington's Disease Association, affording me many opportunities to speak to people living with this rare disease and hear about the devastating impact it has on their ability to lead full lives.

    "At their AGM this year, I heard about the importance of research and medical breakthroughs to people living with the condition and their carers, and so I am beyond delighted to read this news today that a breakthrough seems to have been confirmed to correct the disease.

    "Now we have to campaign to ensure this research is turned into reality for people as quickly as possible."
  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    2 PM Monday

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has called for immediate plans to be put in place to raise the pay of social care workers.

    The South Belfast MLA was speaking following the report of the Expert Advisory Panel Report on Social Care, which said a living wage should be adopted, as well as the equalising of pay and conditions across the social care workforce in the long-term.

    "This is a hugely significant report providing independent analysis of support and identification of priority reforms. It notes there are numerous strong points within the system," said Ms Bradshaw.

    "Nevertheless, reform is necessary. These include a greater focus on giving control to people in care and community support, and properly appraising the cost of providing care and support. There is no dispute the conditions under which social care workers operate must also be improved.

    "As we discuss the broad issue of pay for public sector workers including in the health and social care sector, it should be evident no-one in social care should be working for below the living wage. Correcting this will have a significant impact on the budget, but low pay in times of a rising cost of living is a false economy.

    "This report demonstrates we need to value social care much more, and thus those who rely on it and work in it much more. Implementation of the reforms outlined would be a significant step forward, but we should not underestimate how much work there is to do."
  • Paula Bradshaw profile pic 2
    last Friday

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said health staff should receive their recommended pay awards, after it was confirmed to her the money has been earmarked to do so.

    The South Belfast MLA received a letter from the Department of Health Permanent Secretary stating £26 million has been earmarked to fully implement the 2017/18 Pay Review Body recommendations for health staff, including doctors and dentists, subject to the approval of health and finance Ministers when appointed.

    "I have been in regular correspondence with senior officials over the past few days and weeks making the case for a pay award for health workers which takes account of the rising cost of living," she said.

    "Inevitably, officials will make the case this now requires sign-off from Ministers, and it goes without saying the DUP and Sinn Féin should be using today's good will to advance Executive formation and give public sector workers the pay rise they need and deserve, given the ongoing rise in the cost of living particularly around food and fuel.

    "Nevertheless, I see no reason officials should not proceed in any case to implement the pay award, given no parties can reasonably oppose it. It would be a fine thing if they could announce this intention before Christmas."

  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    last Friday

    Alliance Brexit Spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has given a cautious welcome to the Joint Report from EU and UK Negotiators on the first phase of the Brexit talks.

    He stressed the agreement amounted to a foundation on which to build a workable solution for Northern Ireland, including the potential for Northern Ireland continuing to participate in the Single Market, if the UK as a whole does not now opt for a soft Brexit.

    Dr Farry said it was a strong foundation on which to build.

    "Any type of Brexit will bring some degree of friction and lost opportunity, but we have to find a solution that works for Northern Ireland society and our economy, and maximises our connectivity and opportunities.

    "Within this foundation, there are two absolute planks, namely the protection of the Good Friday Agreement and the avoidance of a hard border on the island of Ireland. The principle of consent and the political integrity of the UK is reinforced in multiple ways.

    "On this foundation a range of different scenarios and mechanisms can now be considered. There is logic of the UK as a whole remaining within both the Single Market and Customs Union. If that is not the case, then the space for a specific solution for Northern Ireland becomes inevitable.

    "Again, this can take various forms, but for Alliance the cleanest route forward is for Northern Ireland as a region to remain within the Single Market. Such an outcome would be consistent with today's foundational agreement.

    "Northern Ireland can be a bridge to both the UK and European markets, which should not be viewed as mutually exclusive. We must be ambitious, which means protecting and preserving east-west trade links, but also positioning our economy so it can grow and be transformed. We cannot do this through just trying to protect what we have, we must look to Europe and through the EU to the rest of the world, and consider not just the movement of goods but also our service sector and the free movement of EU nationals.

    "Today can only be viewed as the beginning. There now must be a much more structured and informed debate and assessment of Northern Ireland's needs leading to a consensus on the best way forward."

  • Stewart Dickson profile pic 1
    last Thursday

    Alliance East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson has said an attack on a war memorial in Larne was an "utterly mindless" act.

    Mr Dickson was speaking after the memorial in the Church Road area had paint thrown over it sometime overnight. It has been targeted in the past and recently undergone refurbishment. Police are treating the incident as a hate crime.

    "It is absolutely appalling anyone would carry out this utterly mindless act, which achieves nothing except increasing tensions," he said.

    "It is disrespectful to those who lost their lives serving their country and distressing to local residents, who have now seen this memorial attacked twice over the past few months. If we are to have a truly united community, this vandalism needs to stop.

    "If anyone has any information on this incident, I would urge them to contact police with it immediately."
  • David Ford
    last Wednesday

    Alliance MLA David Ford has said any amnesty for either security forces accused of crimes in the Troubles or paramilitaries would undermine the rule of law.

    The former Justice Minister was speaking after four MPs called for legislation providing an effective amnesty for anyone accused of crimes linked to the Troubles. It follows claims a question on a
    statute of limitations for soldiers would be added to a Government consultation into the Stormont House Agreement.

    "The four MPs, two Labour and two Conservative, correctly stated any such statute of limitations which only covered soldiers would fall foul of international law. However, even widening it out to include paramilitaries would still result in the same issues.

    "An amnesty would not only contravene international law but would be a slap in the face to victims, many of whom still remain without justice. We have already seen the reaction to the discovery of the on-the-runs scheme, which only added to the hurt suffered by victims. Such an amnesty would also be an insult to the great majority of police officers and soldiers who upheld the rule of law in very difficult circumstances.

    "Alliance fully supports the consultation into the legacy of the past but we remain quite clear it should stick to what is already contained in the Stormont House Agreement. Anything further, particularly around statute of limitations, risks throwing the already limited progress made on victims' issues away."

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