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MLA News

  • Stephen Farry
    2 PM yesterday

    Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has welcomed comments made by the EU Chief Negotiator making the case for Northern Ireland to remain in the customs union and Single Market after Brexit.

    Speaking at the Centre for European Reform conference in London today, Michel Barnier said Northern Ireland already had special rules concerning its relationship with the Republic, which would not "endanger the integrity of the UK".

    Dr Farry it underpinned an approach where Northern Ireland could have a special deal after any Brexit.

    "These are some significant comments from Michel Barnier. First, it is clear as it is the UK leaving the EU, primary responsibility lies with it to provide an outcome protecting the Good Friday Agreement and enabling the Northern Ireland economy. The best approach is the UK opts to remain within both the Customs Union and Single Market. Anything short of that will bring some degree of friction in relationships.

    "Second, it really important to separate politics from economics. Northern Ireland can remain politically and constitutionally a full part of the UK in line with the principle of consent. But if necessary, it can and should have a separate economic approach in light of its particular circumstances.

    "The key points stressed today is this would be consistent with existing differences in terms of a number of economic matters between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. These include energy and agri-food. And it is also worth noting that all main local parties, including both the DUP and UUP, continue to argue for a different Corporation Tax regime.

    "Therefore, a special deal around Brexit does not take Northern Ireland into new territory. For Alliance, this should amount to Northern Ireland, as a region of the UK, remaining a full participant within the EU Single Market."
  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    1 PM Friday

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has called on the Director of Public Prosecutions to publish codes of practice relating to the 'rape clause', after he appeared to replicate a Department for Work and Pensions Minister's guidance women reporting rape during benefits claims were unlikely to be prosecuted.

    The matter arises from the amendment to benefits, which effectively sees new claimants having to prove a child has been conceived via rape if they wish to claim tax credits for more than two children. In most instances the law in Northern Ireland would require anyone being made aware of such cases to notify the PSNI - even potentially against the women herself if, for example, it was revealed an abortion were sought consequently.

    "Women who have been the victim of rape risk being further traumatised in having to reveal their experience. It is an outrage for women seeking legitimate support for children to be placed in this position," said the South Belfast MLA.

    "Professionals offering help must not face the risk of prosecution for failing to disclose a woman has made them aware of a potential case of sexual crime. I am calling on Barra McGrory to issue guidance to prosecutors to assure all relevant practitioners dealing with women in these cases, and the women themselves of their position in respect of these matters. There is, I believe, a chilling effect to the current legislation which must be urgently clarified."

  • Stewart Dickson
    2 PM Thursday

    Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has urged Translink to install an anti-sectarian poster campaign on its trains and buses.

    The campaign by Scottish anti-sectarian group Nil by Mouth shows a train map to various local prisons, with a caption stating 'Use sectarian language on the train and who knows where you'll end up?'

    Mr Dickson responded to a tweet by the group, tagging in Translink and asking the local operator about the chances of a similar campaign here. Nil by Mouth replied to say they were "more than happy to donate the artwork and concept free of charge".

    "Nil by Mouth do a fantastic job challenging sectarianism in all aspects of society. That attempt to eliminate sectarian attitudes and behaviour could translate easily to Northern Ireland," he said.

    "The idea of a poster campaign directly tackling sectarianism on buses and trains here is a good one, made all the better by Nil by Mouth offering its concept and artwork free of charge. I urge Translink to take up this offer and do their part in helping move us from a divided society to a united community."
  • 8 PM Wednesday
    Alliance Lagan Valley representatives have praised the emergency services for their quick response to the fire at a tower block in Dunmurry this evening.

    The blaze broke out at Coolmoyne House in Seymour Hill. Flames and smoke are believed to have affected homes on the ninth or tenth floor of the building. Alliance representatives including Councillor Stephen Martin and Trevor Lunn MLA attended the scene to support residents.

    "We are still awaiting confirmation on the cause of this fire but we believe everyone has been evacuated without a major disaster occurring," said Councillor Martin.

    "My thanks go to the emergency services for their efforts and quick response, which no doubt helped ensure the safety of residents."

    "Obviously this has resulted in echoes of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower in London earlier this year," added Alliance MLA Mr Lunn.

    "The most important thing now is to ensure residents are rehomed if necessary and receive the full support they need at this difficult time."

  • 2 PM Wednesday

    Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has expressed disappointment after Ulster Bank announced it was to close another number of branches.

    The 11 closures - affecting branches in Killyleagh, Portrush and Ballyclare among others - are scheduled to happen in May and follow nine other closures this past March. The move will see the loss of around 40 jobs.

    Strangford MLA Ms Armstrong said it was a blow.

    "This is a disappointing move by Ulster Bank, which compounds the recent move to close another number of branches. The closures will affect a lot of people and moving facilities to the post office or expecting customers to switch to online banking is not an adequate alternative to in-branch services.

    "Ulster Bank have stated this move is due to more people using online services. However, I have to question that logic, as Killyleagh in particular and some other branches as well, are in areas with questionable internet access and poor mobile phone signal, so it does not ring true.

    "It is also concerning news for staff at Ulster Bank, 40 of whom will be expected to seek voluntary redundancy. Alliance will seek to meet with Ulster Bank to discuss what options are being put in place for both customers and workers, so this move will hopefully have a minimal impact."
  • Naomi Long
    12 PM Wednesday

    Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has challenged the British and Irish Governments to quickly announce the next step in the talks, to prevent further drift in the process.

    Mrs Long was speaking after the Secretary of State brought legislation for the Northern Ireland Budget to Westminster. It is expected to pass through Parliament by the end of this week.

    "Alliance has been continually vocal on what needs to happen in order to make this talks process successful. We need to firstly see the discussions opened up to bring other parties onboard, rather than just have the DUP and Sinn Féin talking in a vacuum. We also need an independent mediator to give the process impetus and a reform of the structures to allow a restoration of the Assembly.

    "Now the two Governments need to announce without delay what the next stage in this process is going to be, because it cannot be allowed to drift any further. Without that, we are going to see more paralysis and further crumbling of our public services.

    "If parties want to avoid formal Direct Rule, they have a precious few weeks left before it is inevitable. Alliance wants to see a sustainable, locally-accountable Executive taking important decisions. It's time to see if others want the same."
  • Paula Bradshaw profile pic 2
    last Tuesday

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has cautioned extra health money must include an allocation to improve pay in the sector, as figures again showed the cost of living soaring.

    As UK inflation remained at a five-year high, the South Belfast MLA stated: "The current structure of pay awards in the health sector was based on the assumption inflation would remain within the Bank of England target and thus health sector workers would not find their incomes squeezed by a rising cost of living.

    "With living costs now rising markedly, not least because of the decline in the value of sterling, there needs to be a reassessment of pay awards to ensure our health workers are fairly compensated for the jobs they do.

    "The argument this will add to the financial pressures within the system does not stand up to scrutiny. If we rely on services, it is essential we pay those who provide them fairly and incomes are not squeezed. That is the very least they deserve."
  • Stewart Dickson
    last Tuesday

    Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has said Brexit legislation is rewriting devolution without the input of MLAs.

    The East Antrim MLA was speaking as MPs began debating the Committee stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Commons. He said the current political impasse meant we had no input.

    "This legislation has the potential to change the nature of the Good Friday Agreement in terms of the transfer of competencies from the EU to the UK, and to alter the balance of allocation of powers between the Assembly and Westminster.

    "This should be a matter of extreme concern to any functioning Assembly, and the provisions of this Bill and any related legislative consent motion would be a matter of deep scrutiny by MLAs.

    "By contrast, our counterparts in Scotland and Wales are deeply engaged around this legislation. Given the different nature of devolved powers and the different context here in Northern Ireland, we cannot rely upon them to defend our interests by proxy.

    "This situation further reinforces the urgency for the full restoration of the Executive and Assembly."
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 2
    last Monday

    Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has said the talks process must become more inclusive, after Sinn Féin claimed the current phase was over.

    Dr Farry said the process to date had mainly been a "two-party conversation without any impetus" which needed to change if they were to have a chance of success.

    "It is clear the talks in their current format are not going to produce a result which sees powersharing restored. The DUP and Sinn Féin have had ample space in the past few months to reach agreement but have failed to do so. That is why the UK Government have now stepped in to set a Budget.

    "However, instead of simply declaring the current phase of talks as over, there should be a change to make them more inclusive by bringing in all parties and widening the conversations. In addition, a change of the structures, such as reforming the petition of concern mechanism, would allow issues still causing blockages to be debated on the Assembly floor.

    "An independent mediator would also give the talks a boost which the process has been missing to date. They will be able to play a constructive role to try and get all parties to understand why devolution collapsed, why the impasse remains and how we can find a way forward.

    "Without an inclusive approach, an Executive cannot be restored in any sustainable format, and we will continue to hurdle down the tracks towards full Direct Rule."
  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    last Monday

    Alliance Health Spokesperson Paula Bradshaw has challenged the DUP and Sinn Fein to re-assess their priorities after it emerged terminally ill patients are being placed on hospice waiting lists as care packages are cut.

    The South Belfast MLA said: "We have to ask extremely serious questions about what the DUP's and Sinn Fein's priorities are when we reach the stage that their dancing on the head of a pin over language issues means terminally ill patients do not get the care they need.

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