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MLA News

  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    22 November

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said the Department of Health's announcement it would consider the need for a cancer strategy for Northern Ireland is a positive step forward.

    Ms Bradshaw, who is Chair of the Assembly's All-Party Group on Cancer, was speaking after Department Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said it would 'revisit' the commitment to consider the need for such a strategy following recent legislation giving civil servants more powers in the absence of Ministers. Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK without a cancer strategy.

    "As Chair, I have continued to convene monthly meetings, to bring together MLAs, cancer organisations and healthcare professionals, because we all want to improve care and treatment for cancer patients in Northern Ireland. Without fail, every single meeting has resulted in the collective conclusion we need a comprehensive strategy," she said.

    "We know from the NI Cancer Registry rates of cancer are rising year on year, we know from professionals working in cancer there is tremendous workforce pressures from diagnostic testing through to palliative care, we know from cancer charities research shows preventive and community educational work can prevent some cancers, and yet the Department of Health has repeatedly rejected calls for this cancer strategy until now.

    "A comprehensive cancer strategy will allow for all strands to be brought together into one place and reviewed and renewed, accordingly - from health prevention programmes, like vaccines, through to training adequate staffing across the range of roles, and ensuring our diagnostic kit is of optimal standard and quality, to delivering the treatment and care in locations allowing for ease of access, while ensuring the multi-disciplinary teams are complete and working effectively together.

    "This is a positive step forward in ensuring the Department of Health and the Health and Social Care Trusts deliver the standard of care our cancer patients require and desire."

  • Chris Lyttle20171
    21 November
    Alliance East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle has expressed his concern after news Bombardier is due to cut 490 jobs from its local operations.


    The news follows in the wake of Bombardier's announcement 5,000 jobs would be cut across its global operations. Mr Lyttle said he has sought an urgent meeting with company management on the matter.

    "This news is extremely regrettable for everyone across the community but particularly for those workers directly affected and their families, especially in the mouth of Christmas," he said.

    "My colleague Naomi Long MLA and I have sought an urgent meeting with company management to discuss this matter, and see what action we can take to mitigate compulsory redundancies and secure a competitive future for Bombardier Belfast.

  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    20 November
    Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw has encouraged the public to respond to a consultation on the handling of trials involving rape and other serious sexual offences.


    Sir John Gillen's series of recommendations in a preliminary report include banning members of the public from such trials and making the accused anonymous until they are charged with any offence. The consultation will close on January 15.

    "I firstly want to pay tribute to the important work Sir John Gillen has done in carrying out this review and making the recommendations in his report," said Ms Bradshaw.

    "The review was originally called for by my former colleague David Ford, as there is a pressing need to provide protections for both complainants and defendants in what is undoubtedly a difficult area. Many lessons can be learned from the high profile rape trial earlier this year and I am confident Sir John has done a thorough job in looking at them.

  • Chris Lyttle20171
    19 November
    News almost half of Northern Ireland's schools being in debt are proof of an urgent need for a Bengoa-style review of the entire education system, Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle has said.


    Mr Lyttle was speaking after figures from the Education Authority showed 446 schools out of 1,000 analysed for the current academic year are projected to be in the red. Out of those 446, 352 have seen their deficits increase since 2017/18.

    Alliance Education spokesperson Mr Lyttle said the Bengoa Report, a Government-appointed panel led by international expert Professor Rafael Bengoa which made over a dozen recommendations on how to make our health service fit for the 21st Century, could provide the basis for a similar review of the education system here.

    "Alliance has been vocal for some time now for the need for a complete root and branch reform of the entire education system. We have been inundated with messages from parents, teachers and principals, all concerned about the growing pressures being put on our children's education by factors including increasing financial strain on schools.

    "While we have had numerous reports and recommendations into the education system, they have not been adequately implemented. Such a review outlining the need for reform and subsequent implementation is needed urgently if we are to halt the financial crisis on our schools.

  • Stewart Dickson profile pic 1
    16 November

    Alliance Justice spokesperson Stewart Dickson MLA has praised the emergency services following a major weapons find in West Belfast.

    The haul, which included two AK47s, two sawn-off shotguns, a rifle, three pipebombs and ammunition, was discovered after police attended the scene of a fire in a boiler house in Rodney Drive. Police believe the weapons belong to dissident republicans and had been used in previous attempts to murder police.

    "I would like to praise all the emergency services who firstly helped uncover this haul and then removed it safely," said Mr Dickson.

    "There is now no longer the possibility of these weapons being used in an attempts to murder or injure police officers or others, as they may have been before. These dissidents have no support in the wider community and all who want a safer, more secure Northern Ireland must condemn them.

    "I would urge anyone with information on these weapons or their intended use to contact police immediately."

  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    15 November
    Paula Bradshaw MLA has given a cautious welcome to news women from Northern Ireland seeking an abortion will be able to travel to the Republic in order to do so.

    Ms Bradshaw added there remains no excuse for not legislating to clarify the law in Northern Ireland.

    She said: "Abortion is a conscience issue for Alliance but I welcome the clarification from the Republic's Health Minister, Simon Harris TD, that from next year women will be able to travel across the border to seek an abortion within the laws which will come to apply there, albeit with a charge.

    "Nevertheless, regardless of our personal views on the topic, the issue remains the law in Northern Ireland lacks clarity and is recognised to be in breach of global human rights standards.

    "I have been clear of my view abortion services should be available to women in Northern Ireland free of charge. Regardless of the range of views which exist on the issue, we certainly should have an Assembly up and debating this, and I have no reason to doubt we would see a large degree of consensus there in favour at the least of allowing abortion in case of fatal foetal abnormality.

    "It is time those with the largest mandates faced up to the responsibilities which come with those, and enabled that debate to take place."
  • Naomi Long
    14 November

    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
    14 November
    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
    14 November
    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
    13 November
    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."

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