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MLA News

  • Stewart Dickson profile pic 2
    last Tuesday
    Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has asked for urgent clarification after a Conservative MEP made reference to unionists being "prepared to fight" to remain in the UK.

    David Campbell Bannerman tweeted saying: "The unionists in 1913 were prepared to fight Britain to stay in the United Kingdom through the Ulster Volunteer Force. They have asserted their rights successfully ever since. The DUP leader is not bluffing now - good on them".

    "Whether he meant it or not, Mr Campbell-Bannerman's comments could be seen as a call to armed rebellion by some," said Mr Dickson.

    "To refer to a threat by a paramilitary group to overthrow parliamentary democracy by illegally importing arms through my own constituency is not the sort of analogy politicians should be using, particularly at a time when language around Brexit needs to be de-dramatised.

    "Mr Campbell-Bannerman is democratically elected to an institution created in the wake of Europe-wide violence. To use inflammatory language such as this goes against every ideal the European Parliament stands for.

    "Alliance recognises there is often need for robust comments but these cross a dangerous line. I will be writing to both the European Ombudsman and Chair of the Conservative Party, asking them to investigate and take action. In the meantime, Mr Campbell-Bannerman should urgently clarify precisely what he meant."
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 2
    last Monday
    Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said people need to be "calm and measured" in their language around the proposed Brexit backstop.

    Dr Farry was speaking after the DUP's Nigel Dodds said discussions on the backstop was "now clearly turning into a battle for the union itself".

    "Now is the time we must all stand up for the interests of Northern Ireland, and be calm and measured in our language," said Dr Farry.

    "The backstop is not anyone's preferred option but it is there as a necessary safety net. However, a backstop cannot be a backstop if it is time-limited, and the UK Government needs to recognise that reality.

    "The Government already made a commitment for a backstop in the December 2017 Joint Report, and text was signed off in the draft Withdrawal Agreement, which indicates the backstop is to apply 'until or unless' another solution is agreed. Any talk of a temporary backstop for Northern Ireland would be reversing those commitments. Certainty on the backstop is vital to maintaining an open border and protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

    "Nigel Dodds' comments around the backstop is incendiary language which reflects both a sense of desperation and lack of coherent arguments. The backstop is entirely consistent with Northern Ireland's constitutional status and the principle of consent.

    "Under devolution, Northern Ireland already does things differently and will do so in the future when it is in the interests of our society. Having a backstop in place is not a threat to the union but rather it will bring people together based on the protection of fundamental interests."
  • Paula Bradshaw profile pic 1
    last Thursday

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has welcomed the announcement cannabis-based medicinal products will be made available in Northern Ireland on the same basis as in the rest of the UK from next month.

    Doctors here will be able to prescribe cannabis products to patients from November 1, the Department of Health confirmed.

  • Trevor Lunn20172
    last Thursday

    Alliance Communities spokesperson Trevor Lunn MLA has said the Government has let down working parents by ending the Childcare Voucher Scheme.

    Mr Lunn said last week's closure of the scheme to new applicants showed the Government did not listen to evidence showing working parents would be disadvantaged through its closure.

    "Many local parents use the Childcare Voucher Scheme to help make childcare affordable and so the campaign to re-open it continues," said Mr Lunn.

    "Employers for Childcare is calling for parents to tell their story about how the Childcare Voucher Scheme has helped them continue working. Also, working families who have missed out on the scheme are invited to highlight how closure has impacted negatively on them. These stories will be collated and presented to Government before the Budget is delivered on October 29.

    "I would encourage parents to make their voices heard by telling their stories to Employers for Childcare. It is important the Government hears directly from people affected by this bad policy change and makes provision in the Budget to reverse it.

    "Employers for Childcare also offers guidance on what financial support is available to parents. They can be contacted by email at hello@employersforchildcare.org or by telephone on 0800 028 3008."

  • Kellie Armstrong
    10 October
    Alliance Chief Whip Kellie Armstrong has said today's Ashers judgement does not "provide an excuse for discrimination" for businesses after the Supreme Court ruled in its favour.

    Ms Armstrong was speaking after the bakery firm won its appeal over a previous ruling that its refusal to make a cake backing marriage equality was discriminatory.

    "Alliance's preference was this case had not ended up in court but rather the issues resolved through mediation," she said.

    "We are a party of human rights and equality, and protections in both regards should reinforce each other. But a perceived clash occurs that creates the need for mature reflection as to how the state can ensure equality protections and non-discrimination across all grounds, including both political opinion and sexual orientation, while respecting everyone's right to freedom of expression. For example, freedom of religion must also include freedom from religion. Equality protections are there for a good reason to ensure respect and inclusion, and to avoid direct or indirect discrimination.

    "It is important to stress this is a judgement in a complicated case and in a very limited and particular context. This does not open a carte blanche for businesses or any other provider of services to set aside their equality responsibilities or provide an excuse for discrimination. Nor does it create a de facto 'conscience clause', and Alliance remains opposed to any such exemption either through the backdoor or via legislation."
  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    10 October

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said there is a need to incorporate mental wellbeing into all aspects of everyday life.

    The South Belfast MLA was speaking on World Mental Health Day. She said mental health was often "the poor relative" in the health system.

    "Mental health conditions affect around one in four people in our society at some point in their lives. Despite this, mental health often receives less attention and less funding than other sections of the health service. We can always do more to improve mental health services for people across the community.

  • 9 October

    Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has expressed deep concern after the Brexit Secretary made repeated references to the proposed Brexit backstop being temporary or time-limited.

    Dominic Raab was speaking during a statement to the House of Commons. Dr Farry said it was at odds with prior commitments made by the UK Government in the December 2017 Joint Report.

    "The need for a backstop only arises due to the UK leaving the EU and ruling out a soft Brexit UK-wide. It is there as a safety net for Northern Ireland, through avoiding a hard border and protecting the Good Friday Agreement," said the Alliance Deputy Leader.

    "By Dominic Raab referring on multiple occasions to the backstop being temporary or time-limited, the UK Government is openly indicating its indication to breach a clear commitment from the December 2017 Joint Report.

    "The EU and UK were very clear the backstop would remain in place unless or until a future relationship agreement was put in place covering the underlying reasons why the guarantee is to be put in place.

    "There is space for varying the nature and scope of the backstop but not its potential duration. The people and businesses of Northern Ireland need certainty on the most basic of concepts. This is not a time for the UK Government playing fast and loose with fears and anxieties. By contrast, we have been consistently assured on the intent of the backstop by the EU."

  • Stephen Farry profile pic 2
    9 October
    The DUP's stance on Brexit is endangering the Northern Ireland economy, Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has said.

    Dr Farry was speaking after Arlene Foster met with EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier. He said the DUP was not representative of Northern Ireland on the issue.

    "The DUP is not representing this region's economic and political interests. Their current stance is taking us over the cliff to a no-deal Brexit," he said.

    "The need for a backstop only arises from the UK's decision to leave the EU and to rule out staying in a Customs Union and the Single Market. Economically, Northern Ireland looks both north-south and east-west in terms of supply chains and sales. There is a clear need to maintain an open land border in Ireland and to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

    "Any hard Brexit therefore poses challenges, with no perfect or magical solution. The mooted additional light touch checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland represents the least damaging approach to take. In the event any backstop was implemented, trade would continue unhindered. Indeed, while Brexit itself is an overall negative, the backstop itself does provide Northern Ireland with an opportunity to have a foot in both camps and have advantageous trading terms with both Great Britain and the EU.

    "By contrast, any no deal Brexit will have catastrophic consequences for Northern Ireland politically and economically. The UK will be isolated outside of the EU and all of its trade deals. Overnight all sectors, especially manufacturing and agri-food sectors, will face significant barriers to neighbouring markets.

    "The stakes are high and require responsible leadership. The DUP have a choice of either rowing back on advocating a hard Brexit or recognising the need for a pragmatic safety net for Northern Ireland."
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    8 October
    Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has said the Secretary of State must provide clear leadership on how to restore the devolved institutions, with the current process only "treading water".

    Dr Farry was speaking after meeting with Karen Bradley at Stormont. He said merely "managing the situation" was not enough for the UK Government to continue to do.

    "While today's meeting was welcome, it is essential the Secretary of State now provides a road map on how to restore the Assembly, because at the current moment this process is only treading water. For the UK Government to just manage the situation in terms of the governance void in Northern Ireland completely misses the major issues.

    "The real challenge is now for the Secretary of State to outline how we can have a re-energised talks process and a plan to get devolution restored, allowing us to get back to the work we were elected to do.

    "This also comes at a crucial time in the Brexit process. We need full transparency from the UK and Irish Governments as to what is happening in terms of the ongoing negotiations, in particular regarding the proposed backstop and it being legally operative and time-limited. There is a supreme irony in our future being talked about over our heads, without the input of locally-elected representatives."
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 2
    5 October
    Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said the proposed Brexit backstop is not a constitutional issue but rather a pragmatic and economic intervention to protect the people of Northern Ireland.

    Dr Farry was speaking after representing Alliance in cross-party meetings with EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier and the European Parliament's Brexit Co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt.

    "Our four parties have different views and policies but on Brexit there is common ground, which is also the view of the majority of people in Northern Ireland, who voted Remain in the EU Referendum. There is therefore rightly an expectation parties will work together where they agree and from today's meetings, it is clear that collective voice is greater than the sum of its parts," he said.

    "Alliance's starting preference is to avoid any Brexit but in parallel with the current process, we also need to ensure special arrangements are in place to protect the common interests of the people of Northern Ireland, which include maintaining an open border and protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

    "From hearing first-hand the EU's approach to the final phase of negotiations, it is clear the backstop must be legally operative and unconditional. It must also be de-dramatised - this is not a constitutional matter but rather a pragmatic and economic intervention, which is in the best interests of Northern Ireland economically and politically.

    "Over the days ahead, it is important all stakeholders, particularly the business community, make their voices clear on this issue."

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