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MLA News

  • Kellie Armstrong
    2 PM yesterday

    The Northern Ireland Audit Office is set to focus on the Disabled Facilities Grant operated by the Housing Executive, Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has said, after she raised the issue with the Controller and Auditor General.

    The MLA for Strangford took action following a series of concerns raised by recipients of the grant and contacts with the Housing Executive.

  • Naomi Long
    2 PM yesterday

    Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has given a cautious welcome to the announcement of new talks but reiterated they need to be all-party with an independent mediator if they are to have any possibility of success.

    Mrs Long was speaking after Secretary of State Karen Bradley said a new "short and intense" phase of talks would begin next Wednesday. She is due to update Parliament on progress no later than February 7.

    "The DUP and Sinn Féin have had since last summer to talk amongst themselves. Whilst we have continued to offer solutions, engage in bilateral meetings with other parties and the two Governments, the level of meaningful engagement in the talks process outside of those two parties has been extremely limited since then. That drift has been against the backdrop of people losing jobs, budgets being cut and services being put under further pressure," the Alliance Leader said.

    "That phase of the process has failed to deliver any tangible progress and it is now time for all parties to be directly involved. We not only need a change of pace in these talks but a marked change in attitude from the two largest parties, if we are to see the Assembly restored.

    "The appointment of an independent facilitator would be another significant step forward and we are disappointed that has not yet happened. Alliance first raised this matter before last summer and we were told there was no time for someone to get across the issues which were close to resolution.

    "Seven months later, we are no further on and rather than waste further time, a facilitator should be appointed immediately. If we are to have a successful talks process with a sustainable deal, an impartial chair will increase that likelihood dramatically."
  • Stephen Farry
    4 PM Wednesday

    Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said there needs to be a more comprehensive approach to European funding after Brexit, after it was indicated it would remain for cross-border schemes.

    Dr Farry was speaking after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he could see "no more important use" of the European budget than maintaining the peace process in Ireland. The current funding is due to run out in 2020, with the UK Government maintaining it until then.

    "Northern Ireland is very heavily dependent upon European funding. While continued access to Peace and Interreg monies would clearly be welcome, the funding debate needs to include both structural funds and access to competitive funds," said Dr Farry.

    "The European Social Fund for example, allows for a wider range of interventions regarding employability issues, especially for the most marginalised, with programmes mainly being delivered through the community and voluntary sector, while Horizon 2020 provides research opportunities for universities and businesses.

    "Therefore the challenge is much larger than continued access to funding. The UK Government could continue to make contributions to the EU budget in order to maintain Northern Ireland's eligibility, and allow us to continue to the comprehensive, broad-based approach we currently enjoy."
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 2
    4 PM Monday

    While the reallocation of money across Executive Departments is welcome, it is "minor housekeeping" at the end of a difficult financial year, Alliance Finance spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said.

    Dr Farry was speaking after it was announced the Department of Education and Department for Infrastructure would receive additional funds, as well as the Department for Communities and Executive Office.

    However, Dr Farry said the real focus needed to be elsewhere.

    "This is minor housekeeping at the end of a very difficult financial year. There is seldom much room for manoeuvre at this stage but the additional allocations are nonetheless welcome.

    "However, the real focus has to be on a year of politically-induced financial chaos, with late decisions and stalled reforms, hindering the ability for ever-scarce resources to be spent efficiently and effectively.

    "The challenge in the forthcoming financial year is going to be even greater, with increased pressures and less money available. Our public services are underperforming and our economy is stagnating.

    "Northern Ireland cannot afford to keep slipping further and further behind. We have deep concerns at the proposed options from the Civil Service and do not see a sufficient strategic approach or commitment to reform that is going to facilitate that step-change in performance and delivery. There must be an even greater urgency to the resolution of the current political deadlock and the establishment of a stable and sustainable Executive."
  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    3 PM Monday

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said the planned recruitment of 600 Filipino nurses demonstrates the need for proper workforce planning in the health and social care service.

    The South Belfast MLA was speaking after it was revealed the nurses would be recruited due to the shortage of nurses, which is currently estimated to be around 10 per cent below capacity.

    "We are fortunate in Northern Ireland we have already recruited hundreds of workers from the Philippines and elsewhere, without which our health and social care service would simply collapse. There is little doubt this new planned recruitment is needed.

    "What this demonstrates, however, is a proper and comprehensive workforce plan is needed, not least given the potential limitations on recruitment if the UK proceeds to leave the EU. We need to consider more fundamentally what needs the service will have as people continue to live longer and have more complex conditions, whether more investment is needed in training nurses and other health professionals here in Northern Ireland, and how we will plan for a time the UK becomes potentially less attractive as a location to foreign professionals if there are restrictions on movement of labour around the EU.

    "As ever, this is just a further demonstration of the urgency of transformation of the service, and the need to have a Minister in post making key decisions for future planning to ensure we have the workforce necessary to meet demand into the next decade."

  • Kellie Armstrong
    3 PM Monday

    Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has welcomed a review of the personal independence payment (PIP) process.

    PIP was introduced in Northern Ireland in June 2016, initially replacing disability living allowance (DLA) for new claims and a limited number of DLA recipients. In December 2016, the Department for Communities began reassessing all remaining DLA recipients for PIP.

    The independent review will look at how the PIP assessment process is working, including a call for evidence from those affected. It is open until March 16 and people can respond via the Department website.

    "Throughout the entire PIP process, there has been no consideration of people with mental health conditions or learning disabilities to have their issues considered," said Ms Armstrong.

    "To date, the process has been concerned more with how a disability or illness have impacted a person's physical ability to live but has not considered their mental health and wellbeing. It is time the Department took a person-centred approach to the matter.

    "As Chair of the All-Party Group on Disability, I have asked Capita, which carries out PIP assessments, to attend a group meeting to discuss the process. Myself and colleagues have continually heard first-hand how the system has been creating stress and undue pressure on people with disabilities, many of whom have had to use the appeals mechanism to have their disability finally recognised.

    "I would encourage them and everyone who has been through the process transferring DLA to PIP to take part in this review, and hopefully the Department will finally listen to people's concerns."
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    2 PM Monday

    Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has said the entire Barry McElduff episode should serve to show the requirement to prioritise the needs of victims here.

    Dr Farry was speaking after Mr McElduff resigned as West Tyrone MP, following a social media video of him posing with a Kingsmill loaf on his head on the anniversary of the massacre of the same name. It will now trigger a by-election in the constituency.

    "The most important thing throughout this entire sorry episode has been the thoughts and feelings of victims and survivors. It should remind us of the suffering experienced by them and their needs. There must be a robust and effective means of dealing with the past created so those most directly affected by our past can have their requirements addressed.

    "The hurt and pain caused by Barry McElduff was compounded by the lack of an explanation as to his intent behind the video, a clarification we are still without.

    "Any by-election in West Tyrone should not be allowed to deflect from the importance of getting all-party talks re-established immediately. Only by dealing with the issues on the table with integrity will we be able to find a way to peacefully co-exist, without having the past continually raked up for cheap point-scoring exercises."
  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    last Thursday

    Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw has welcomed news research is to be carried out into the operation of former mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries in Northern Ireland.

    The research will be carried out by Queen's and Ulster universities, and is expected to take a year. It will cover the period 1922 to 1999.

  • last Wednesday

    Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has askd for a drawing using imagery of the Kingsmill massacre to be taken down by several politicians who posted it on social media.

    Mrs Long said while the image was clearly making a political point, senior political representatives posting it were using it to score political points.

    "Given the hurt caused by this past weekend's events relating to Kingsmill, senior political representatives sharing this image on social media cannot have been unaware of the impact their actions would have. I would call on both Christopher Stalford and Doug Beattie to remove the post and apologise for using what was an obscene atrocity to score political points. It is irresponsible, inflammatory and insulting behaviour which is unbecoming of their role.

    "Artists, of course, have a right to freedom of expression, and will often use images which are provocative or even grotesque in order to make their point. However, we are not artists, comedians, or satirists, we are supposed to be politicians. Our role in society is not to play the provocateur, we have a duty to show restraint and leadership and should carefully consider the impact of our words and actions on the community and the political process, and never more than when it comes to dealing with our painful and bloody past.

    "Some of our elected representatives appear to be engaged in a race to the bottom, in which we will all be losers. It needs to end now. We need maturity and leadership from elected representatives and we need to reflect how we intend to address our past and those most directly affected by it with integrity and compassion, and find a way to co-exist which ensures there is no repeat of this tit for tat abuse of these actions or those which led to the creation of victims in the first place."

  • Stephen Farry profile pic 2
    last Wednesday

    Alliance Economy spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has called on the UK Government to "keep fighting" after it admitted it expected Bombardier to lose its trade dispute with Boeing.

    Richard Harrington, a Minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, made the admission at a Westminster committee. Bombardier was hit with an interim import tariff of almost 300 per cent after complaints from Boeing relating to the C Series aircraft. The US International Trade Commission is due to make a final decision within the next few weeks.

    "Despite this admission, the UK Government must not give up and must keep fighting vigorously for Bombardier on this matter," said Dr Farry.

    "Even with the proposed Airbus deal in the pipeline, major issues remain for both Bombardier itself as an organisation and global competition throughout the aerospace sector. The company is a major employer in Belfast and wider Northern Ireland, and is serviced by a large supply chain. It is important this challenge is taken seriously.

    "The potential for the US ITC to rule against Bombarider shows how limited the UK could be in seeking a trade deal with the US from a position of weakness following any Brexit. It would be better from a local, as well as pan-European view, for a strong and united EU to do any such deal."

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