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MLA News

  • Naomi Long
    7 PM yesterday

    Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has said while she is relieved a potential agreement between the EU and UK on a the latter's exit from the EU is closer, there remains no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit.

    Speaking after Prime Minister Theresa May said the Cabinet backed the draft Withdrawal Agreement, Mrs Long said Alliance's preference remained a People's Vote on Brexit.

    "We are relieved there is a potential agreement between the EU and UK on a Withdrawal Agreement, including a backstop which meets the conditions set out in Joint Report from December 2017 and which is supported by representatives of the majority of people in Northern Ireland," he said.

    "The backstop is not a threat to the constitutional position here. Rather it is an insurance policy based on existing precedents, and helping us to better survive Brexit.

    "However, there is nothing to celebrate because there is no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit. The backstop is a last resort safety-net, the bare minimum to protect the Good Friday Agreement and to avoid a hard border. But only as insurance against a much worse fate. Practically, it is a third party fire and theft policy rather than a fully comprehensive one.

    "Great care and responsibility around language is vital over the coming days. The parliamentary path for Brexit remains uncertain. Our first preference continues to be Brexit itself is reconsidered through a People's Vote. We believe Parliament should put this deal to a referendum with Remain being an option on the ballot."

  • Stewart Dickson World Diabetes Day
    3 PM yesterday
    A restored Executive can help deliver a diabetes strategy, Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has said.

    Mr Dickson, who is Chair of the Assembly All-Party Group on Diabetes, was speaking as he helped launch a World Diabetes Day event in Parliament Buildings. The event also heard from speakers on issues such as how to improve diabetes care here. The theme for this year's World Diabetes Day is family, which Mr Dickson said was fitting.

    "Current estimates suggest there are over 100.000 people living with diabetes in Northern Ireland and the number continues to rise. Therefore everyone knows someone who suffers from the condition and the impact is felt wider than just the person with diabetes.

    "We need to ensure those suffering from diabetes have access to locally-based treatment and whatever support they need. An Executive diabetes strategy could raise awareness and help reduce the number of serious cases in Northern Ireland.

    "World Diabetes Day is not only a chance to showcase the support available to those living with the condition but it should be a wake-up call for the parties blocking agreement and a return to power-sharing here."
  • John Blair with Nature Matters NI
    2 PM yesterday
    An independent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could help protect Northern Ireland against pollution in the wake of any Brexit, Alliance Environment spokesperson John Blair MLA has said.

    Mr Blair was speaking after meeting with the Nature Matters NI organisation on the need to protect the environment as negotiations continue around Brexit. He said Northern Ireland had a pressing need for an EPA.

    "With Brexit negotiations ramping up and the date of any potential EU exit rapidly approaching, the need is greater than ever for an independent EPA. It is embarrassing Northern Ireland is the only part of the EU with the exception of Greece without an EPA.

    "That leaves us far behind already on environmental issues. The real danger is the damage Brexit will aggravate that - although the UK Government will copy across EU law on environmental commitments after Brexit, there is the possibility environmental protections will fall by the wayside without the threat of fines from the EU for those breaking them.

    "An independent EPA could not only act as a champion for our local environment but also send out a strong message against those who may pollute in any post-Brexit situation. I will be seeking further meetings with the DAERA Permanent Secretary to attempt to clarify the impact Brexit is going to have on environmental regulations here."
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 2
    5 PM Tuesday
    Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has said reports UK and EU negotiators have agreed the text of a potential Brexit Withdrawal Agreement are encouraging but expressed caution on a number of grounds ahead of any publication of an agreed text.

    He said: "These reports are encouraging, but we must remain cautious ahead of the publication of any text and in anticipation of the internal politics of the UK Government and Parliament playing out.

    "For Alliance, an open-ended backstop in place until or unless it is superseded is critical to protect the Good Friday Agreement and to avoid a hard border in Ireland. It is useful in many ways of aspects of the backstop can apply UK-wide.

    "It is important people are measured in their reaction to the backstop and do not contribute further to unnecessary dramatising of something that should be seen in pragmatic terms.

    "Ultimately, the backstop is only an insurance approach to Brexit. There is no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit."
  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    1 PM Tuesday

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said the failure to replace the current consultant paediatric pathologist in Northern Ireland is "deeply alarming".

    It means post-mortem examinations on infants in Northern Ireland will have to be carried out in a hospital in England due to a lack of specialist staff due to the single remaining consultant leaving his post this February. Around 240 hospital autopsies are carried out in children in Northern Ireland each year.

    The South Belfast MLA said it once again emphasised the need for the return of a Health Minister.

    "I recognise the Health and Social Care Board is doing all it can to ensure perinatal and paediatric pathology services are still available to people living within Northern Ireland, but the proposal to do this in England rather than through a Belfast-based consultant as currently is deeply alarming and another example of the huge disadvantage of operating a service without adequate resource or forward planning.

    "I wrote to the Department on exactly this subject some weeks ago and the response was clear in its view - Ministers are required back in place to provide the necessary approval and adequate resources for perinatal services during the transformation process. This news merely emphasises how bad things are without any Executive in place.

    "Working alongside campaign groups on the issue, such as Everyone's Business whom I met recently, I will continue to do what I can to ensure this is prioritised. Once again, it is vulnerable people suffering from the political failure of those who received the biggest mandates but are shirking the responsibility that comes with them."

  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    10 AM Tuesday
    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said delays in delivering justice and support for victims of sexual crime are unacceptable, and has called for urgent action to address the issue.

    The South Belfast MLA stated was speaking after a report by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate said processes for dealing with rape and other serious sexual crimes here take too long and fail to deliver an acceptable outcome for victims.

    "Today's report makes for alarming reading, but many people across Northern Ireland will be unsurprised by it," said Ms Bradshaw.

    "The stark warning that victims of sexual crime often come to withdraw from the criminal justice system entirely because it has failed them, could not be clearer.

    "It is clear from the report in the period since the institutions collapsed the impetus has been lost in delivering on the recommendations of previous reports. Still now, the number of convictions per sexual crime reported is below one in ten.

    "As a result it is no surprise victims going through such a traumatic experience would give up on the criminal justice system altogether. The system seems to set out to delay the quest for justice and does little to address the trauma and intrusion experienced by the victim in such an adversarial process.

    "Yet again, we have another example of why those with the biggest mandate have the biggest responsibility. It is time to stop shirking it. Victims deserve better."
  • Kellie Armstrong
    3 PM Monday
    Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has backed calls for extra statutory parental leave for parents of prematurely-born babies.

    It follows calls from Sarah Kirker from Larne, who gave birth in April to a premature baby. She is due back to work in December, despite her son Matthew still having an underdeveloped nervous system and immune system.

    Earlier this year, Ms Armstrong brought an Assembly motion calling for extended statutory parental leave for parents of premature babies. It will be carried forward when the Assembly is restored.

    "Many parents end up in the situation where their baby is born premature and they spend their days travelling to and from hospital caring for their child. It is vital they are given the support they need without having to worry about a looming return to work," she said.

    "If my Assembly motion is successful, it will mean parents of premature babies will have statutory paternal leave increased for the same amount of time a baby is premature, allowing them to then have the same amount of time at home having a full experience with their babies as all other parents.

    "The Republic of Ireland has extended maternity leave for such parents, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he would allow extra paid leave for City Hall staff. It is frustrating parents here in the same circumstances cannot avail of the same benefits. It is important we get the Assembly restored as soon as possible so we can take them out of that limbo."
  • Chris Lyttle20172
    3 PM Friday
    Alliance East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle has hit out at those behind a racist attack in his constituency which saw the home of a family of five was attacked.

    The family - a man, woman and three children - escaped injury after accelerant was poured through the letterbox of the property in Hyndford Street around 12:10am today (Friday). The man in the house was able to put the fire out himself but the family were left "badly shaken". Damage was caused to the door. Police are treating it as arson with intent to endanger life, as well as a racial hate crime.

    "This was a thoroughly reckless attack which could have resulted in serious injury or even death," said Mr Lyttle.

    "Racism has no place in our society and must be condemned by everyone. The vast majority of people in East Belfast are welcoming and abhor both the attitude and actions of those who carried out this attack.

    "Clearly the perpetrators are a danger to our entire community and I would urge anyone with information to contact police with it immediately."
  • Stewart Dickson profile pic 2
    2 PM Friday
    Alliance East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson is to seek urgent meetings with the owners of Kilroot and Ballylumford power stations after restructuring was announced at the locations.

    It is understood the majority of jobs at the plants will be saved but up to 80 redundancies will take place. Owners AES will keep Kilroot open for at least a year after a deal was agreed with system operator SONI. However, several parts of the Ballylumford site will now close.

    AES have stated they will "enter into consultation" with union representatives about job losses.

    "Foremost, my thoughts are with all those workers who will be affected by this process. My colleague Stephen Farry MLA and I have met several times with management of AES regarding the future of both sites, and we will be seeking to meet them again urgently so workers know precisely what is happening," said Mr Dickson.

    "Unfortunately, it appears this situation will result in job losses for people in East Antrim, despite Kilroot effectively being thrown a lifeline after initial talk of its closure. There also remains a wide range of questions to be answered regarding the future of the power supply for Northern Ireland.

    "There is a skilled workforce employed across the two plants. While some will no doubt take the opportunity to retire, some may have to move and others will have to find alternative employment. I will also be pressing AES to assist workers in whatever way possible with skills audits and retraining."
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    12 PM Friday

    Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said the DUP is not "defending or representing" Northern Ireland after the party criticised a potential Brexit backstop.

    Dr Farry was speaking after Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to DUP leader Arlene Foster around the backstop, which the DUP reacted angrily to.

    "There is no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit. The UK Government is tying itself up in knots trying to avoid facing up to the contradictions of its redlines. The DUP is making a massive mistake in dramatising the backstop as a threat to the union, and manufacturing a betrayal narrative. We need cool heads and a rational consideration of what is in Northern Ireland's interest, including economic prosperity and political stability," he said.

    "The backstop only arises due to the determination of some to leave the EU, and to rule out the whole UK having a fresh Customs Union and staying in the Single Market. We would welcome anyone reconsidering the illogic of their position.

    "But to get a Withdrawal Agreement now, and to avoid a catastrophic no deal outcome, the backstop needs to be agreed. It is only a safety-net to protect the Good Friday Agreement and to avoid a hard border in all circumstances. It may never need to come into effect, but like any insurance policy, it needs to be there. The UK Government needs to be clear in abiding by the terms of the Joint Report regarding the backstop being open-ended and all-weather.

    "The possibility of additional checks down the Irish Sea needs to be de-dramatised. They are not a threat or change in the constitutional position. Some checks already take place and Northern Ireland already does many things differently. The majority of people in Northern Ireland see the backstop in pragmatic terms as do most business. The DUP position is neither defending nor representing Northern Ireland."

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