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MLA News

  • John Blair, Stewart Dickson, Julian McGrath at pig farm protest
    4:58 PM
    Alliance Environmental spokesperson John Blair MLA has paid tribute to campaigners opposed to the expansion of pig farms in Newtownabbey after an application to build more was deferred by the local Council.

    Mr Blair spoke against the proposed pig farm at a meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council on Monday night. He has consistently supported residents in their fight against the farms, alongside Alliance colleagues Stewart Dickson MLA and Councillor Julian McGrath.

    The proposal for lands close to Ballyclare would have seen the demolition of an existing pig farm and replacement with new units.

    "The growth of pig farms throughout Newtownabbey has rightly been protested for some time by residents throughout the borough and further afield. It is regrettable this farm, and the potential pollution of the surrounding area, was given a recommendation to be granted planning permission," said Mr Blair.

    "We should all be deeply concerned by the proliferation of these pig farms. Ammonia levels in Northern Ireland are already potentially hazardous. Approving this pig farm will only make the problem worse.

    "However, thanks to the work of the residents and our representations, the application was deferred so Council can gather further information on ammonia levels and other relevant environmental information before making a final decision.

  • Reform of the petition of concern
    12:33 PM
    Reforming the Petition of Concern (POC) mechanism is key to unlocking the potential of devolution, Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw has said.

    Ms Bradshaw said while the mechanism was an important tool in protecting minority rights, in practice it had often been used to block the delivery of rights, while frustrating progress. She added Alliance had first brought the idea of reforming the POC during previous talks to restore devolution.

    "Alliance put proposals on the table to reform the POC almost two years ago. The POC was designed to protect minorities. Instead, it has been used to frustrate progress, stop the Assembly from holding Ministers to account, and block the delivery of rights and equality. Reforming it is key to opening progression on a whole range of rights issues," said Ms Bradshaw.

    "It is crucial when the Assembly returns, the POC would be no longer used to do what it has before. Instead, any future POC would be strictly limited to matters involving changes to the Assembly or constitutional matters, specific issues around identity and culture, or issues relating to the past such as legacy, victims and paramilitarism.

    "Under Alliance's proposals, every POC would need to be signed and dated, excluding pre-signed forms, clearly state why the mechanism needs to be used and satisfy a member of a legal panel on how it meets the criteria.

  • 9 PM yesterday

    Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has expressed his shock after police launched a murder investigation following the discovery of a man's body in Co Antrim.

    The deceased was found in his home on the Church Road in Glenwherry around 1pm today (Tuesday). It is understood he had been shot and had been discovered by a neighbour.

    "This is a shocking incident and my thoughts are with the loved ones of the deceased at what must be an extremely sad time for them. It will have caused great distress in what is a quiet, rural area," said Mr Dickson.

    "It is important the police establish the circumstances of this man's death. If anyone has any information whatsoever, I would urge them to contact the PSNI with it immediately."

  • John Blair
    8 PM Monday

    Alliance Policing Board member John Blair MLA has questioned whether Sinn Féin can remain on the interview panel to appoint a new Chief Constable after Mary-Lou McDonald said she didn't believe George Hamilton's replacement should come from within the current PSNI leadership.

    The Sinn Féin president said she didn't have confidence in the current leadership team to take the reins when Mr Hamilton steps down.

    "This was a careless and irresponsible thing to say," said South Antrim MLA Mr Blair.

    "It would be the ideal scenario to have as broad a representation as possible on the selection panel which interviews candidates and decides upon George Hamilton's replacement. However, this intervention from Mary-Lou McDonald now begs the question as to whether any Sinn Féin representative can sit on that panel.

    "Undoubtedly the PSNI have questions to answer over recent serious revelations around the failure to pass information on killings to the Police Ombudsman and I have requested a special meeting of the Policing Board to discuss this matter directly with the Chief Constable. In addition, we recognise and acknowledge the challenge of maintaining and securing cross-community support and engagement for policing.

    "However, we should not allow the recruitment process for a new Chief Constable to become undermined, as it has with these comments."

  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    2 PM Friday
    The UK Government is playing a game of chicken with Brexit, Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry has said.

    Dr Farry was speaking after attending the fifth All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit, taking place today in Dublin. He told attendees the backstop was vital to protect the interests of Northern Ireland from the impact of Brexit.

    "This forum offers an excellent opportunity to discuss the common challenges facing both parts of the island from Brexit and the practical steps needed to be taken to mitigate its effects," he said.

    "Any negotiated Brexit requires this Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop. The backstop is not being imposed on Northern Ireland and we don't need protection from it. Rather it is a pragmatic intervention to address the particular circumstances of this region and is entirely consistent with the principle of consent. I welcome the renewed commitment from the Taoiseach this morning to the integrity of the backstop.

    "The UK Government is playing a game of chicken with Brexit. Until a no deal outcome is taken off the agenda then sadly both parts of Ireland have no choice but to plan and indeed to intensity that planning.

  • Stephen Farry profile pic 2
    5 PM Thursday
    Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said today's Parliamentary debate on the issue "resolved little and only served to waste time".

    The Government's motion reiterating its approach to Brexit was defeated in the House of Commons, alongside several amendments brought by Labour and the SNP.

    "Today's debate resolved little and only served to waste more time - precious time the UK, and in particular Northern Ireland, doesn't have," said Dr Farry.

    "Both the Government and Opposition are continually kicking the can down the road. Delay only serves to indulge delusions and to facilitate the chasing of unicorns. But delay fuels uncertainty and means more and more businesses have to take decisions on their futures which impact on jobs and people's livelihoods. Every day this goes on real and irreversible damage is occurring.

    "The Prime Minister's attempt to renegotiate the backstop are going nowhere. The backstop is rightly regarded as critical to protect the Good Friday Agreement. Her only realistic options are to move to the centre-ground and build a coalition around a softer version of Brexit or to ask for an extension of Article 50 to put her deal to a referendum.

  • Kellie Armstrong
    5 PM Thursday
    Alliance Infrastructure spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA has welcomed UK Government funding for the City of Derry Airport, securing its direct flight to London.

    Transport Secretary Chris Grayling confirmed the route, which has been subsidised since May 2017, would be secure until 2021.

    "This route has been threatened with closure in the recent past, so it is welcome its future has now been secured for the foreseeable future," said Ms Armstrong.

    "It shows a commitment to the west of Northern Ireland, as well as improving east-west links to London, which will be good news for businesses in the north-west.

  • Naomi Long
    12 PM Thursday
    The lack of focus on restoring the devolved institutions is intolerable, Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has said, on the anniversary of the collapse of the last talks process.

    One year ago today, discussions between the DUP and Sinn Féin to return to power-sharing broke down. Mrs Long said it was "disgraceful" no formal all-party engagement had taken place since then, apart from several meetings arranged by the Alliance Leader herself.

    "It is completely indefensible we are one year on from the last serious prolonged engagement between the DUP and Sinn Féin, which resulted in a draft agreement but ultimately no deal. It has been two years from the collapse of the institutions and yet no serious engagement or process is in place to resolve this impasse." said Mrs Long.

    "This past year has increased the frustration and anger of the public towards not only the two parties, but with the Assembly and politics more generally. Continued inaction is undermining any remaining shred of public confidence in politics to deliver for our community.

    "Alliance has not simply criticised from the sidelines - we have put viable solutions on the table, whether our Next Steps Forward document dealing with the return of devolution or proposals to break the stand-off over the Irish language, to reform and strengthen governance in any restored Assembly and Executive, and to end the abuse of the petition of concern.

    "All of that work has been focused on ensuring we not only get devolution restored, but also any restored Assembly and Executive can actually deliver sustainable and effective government for everyone in our community.

    "In frustration, Alliance has convened discussions between parties ourselves to at least reinstate some kind of contact, however, ultimately there needs to be a reinvigorated formal talks process with an independent facilitator to drive it if we are to make real progress rather than continue to drift.

    "While the process is stalled, issues like Brexit, and financial pressures in health and education are continuing apace with no meaningful opportunity for MLAs to respond to those challenges and shape better outcomes for those who elected us. Unquestionably, they will all have a massive impact on us for many years to come and every day they remain unaddressed carries a huge long-term cost for us all.

  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    11 AM Thursday
    Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has said failure by the PSNI to disclose 'significant information' to the Police Ombudsman relating to a loyalist paramilitary massacre raises "serious issues".

    The Ombudsman has now confirmed it has reopened new lines of inquiry into the attack on Sean Graham's bookies in the Lower Ormeau in 1992, as well as other loyalist killings in the north-west between 1988-94 and the murder of Damien Walsh at a West Belfast coal depot in 1993, after investigators identified information held by police was not made available to staff investigating the massacre, in which five people were killed.

    "This undoubtedly raises serious issues and has the potential to undermine confidence in the police and criminal justice system. That has to be acknowledged and addressed by the police and other agencies in the process," said Dr Farry.

    "The Policing Board needs convened immediately to look at this matter and determine what exactly has occurred in the cases the Ombudsman identified, whether it an isolated human error, problems with the records and IT systems or something else. We also need to know whether this is isolated to the cases identified by the Ombudsman or if other cases may have been similarly affected.

    "The Department of Justice also needs to look at this to establish how much a lack of resources and effective technology and systems contributed to this failure to make all the relevant information available to the Ombudsman.

  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    last Tuesday

    The Prime Minister and Parliament are "wasting time" by running the clock down on Brexit, Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said.

    Dr Farry was speaking after Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons there would be another vote on her proposed Brexit Withdrawal Agreement but only after more talks with the EU.

    "Delay and running the clock down on Brexit is a dangerous game. Asking for more time equates to wasting time," said Dr Farry.

    "The choices facing the UK are clear and stark. Any negotiated Brexit will need to be based on this Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop as it is currently framed. The only coherent alternative is a further referendum. Otherwise, the default is a catastrophic no deal situation.

    "More and more delay and procrastination only serves to indulge delusions and the chasing of unicorns. However, delay doesn't some without cost. Business and other stakeholders need to have certainty, and will otherwise be forced to take decisions with implications for investment and jobs.

    "Parliament needs to step up and force this issue. At a minimum, it does seem there is a majority for a soft Brexit which could be telegraphed through an amended political declaration. However, there may also be a majority for a People's Vote.

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