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MLA News

  • 23 October

    Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has paid tribute to the victims of the Shankill bomb on the 25 anniversary of the massacre.

    Nine people, including two children aged seven and 13, were killed in the no warning blast in Frizzell's fish shop on October 23, 1993. Some 57 other people were injured. One of the bombers also died.

    Mrs Long was speaking ahead of attending a commemoration event at West Kirk Presbyterian Church on the Shankill Road today (Tuesday). The service will include readings by members of bereaved families.

    "This was one of the most horrific atrocities in a period filled with terrible acts of violence," said Mrs Long.

    "My thoughts today are with the families and loved ones of the victims who died that day and with those injured in the attack, who still bear the scars.

    "In contrast to those who planned and planted the bomb, the courage and compassion of the emergency services who responded to the devastation that day, and the strength and support of the wider community offered hope in the middle of the turmoil and terror.

    "The Shankill bomb sparked one of the bloodiest months of the Troubles, with a series of tit-for-tat attacks and killings following in its wake. I think too of those survivors and bereaved families caught up in the aftermath of what happened on the Shankill and for whom this anniversary and the next few weeks will be incredibly difficult.

    "As we remember the loss of life and pay our respects to the victims and survivors of the bombing, 25 years on we must also reflect on what our contribution will be to ensure such violence never revisits our streets and also the hatred and division on which it thrived are addressed in our community today."

  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    22 October

    Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said while aspects of the proposed backstop could be applied UK-wide, at its core it must remain open-ended.

    Dr Farry was responding to the Prime Minister's statement to the House of Commons on the EU Council Summit last week.

    He said: "Alliance's preference continues to be a People's Vote to reconsider Brexit or a soft Brexit UK-wide. The backstop is only our insurance to protect the Good Friday Agreement and to ensure an open border in Ireland.

    "At a minimum, Northern Ireland does need to follow the relevant rules of the single market and be part of the same customs area. We have no objection and indeed would welcome elements of the backstop being UK-wide. However, the backstop is not a backstop unless it is open-ended until and unless a better solution is found. That is the critical point.

    "The continued focus on time-limits is at odds with the intent of the backstop and what has already been agreed by the UK Government in the December 2017 Joint Report and commitments already made around the Withdrawal Agreement.

    "The Prime Minister is running out of time and has already missed the deadline for a negotiated withdrawal from the EU. She needs to accept and take forward what has already been agreed. To do otherwise risks a no-deal outcome and jeopardises the UK economy and the cohesion of society."

  • John Blair
    22 October
    Alliance MLA John Blair has said it is "laughable" to suggest a second EU referendum would result in a bigger majority for Leave, after the Secretary of State said it would be the case.

    Mr Blair was speaking after Karen Bradley made the remarks in an address at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in London. Mr Blair, who is attending the same event, said the growth of backing for a People's Vote showed it was clearly not the case.

    "Brexit is one of the biggest acts of self-harm facing the UK, with Northern Ireland in particular facing significant damage to our economy and social cohesion," said Mr Blair.

    "To suggest a People's Vote would result in a bigger Leave vote is simply laughable. People have seen the lies spun by the leave campaign during the referendum, the breaking of the law, the failure to follow through on promises such as money to the NHS and questions remaining over 'dark money', and I have absolutely no doubt the majority of voters would back Remain, just as they did in Northern Ireland.

    "A People's Vote recently received the backing of several local Councils thanks to my Alliance colleagues and this past weekend saw the streets of Belfast filled with a Right to Remain rally, which heard the strong desire to not be removed from the EU undemocratically. A People's Vote is the best way to prevent that happening."
  • 22 October

    Alliance South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw has called for the removal of election-style posters erected by Sinn Féin in parts of the constituency.

    Ms Bradshaw said: "We saw the strength of feeling against Brexit in South Belfast and across the city aptly demonstrated by the Rally for Remain demonstration on Saturday. That was a clear exhibition of what most local people think about Brexit, and particularly about the ludicrous notion of leaving the EU with no future deal in place.

    "However, while everyone has a right to demonstrate their stance, posters which have appeared in various parts of the constituency are unwelcome, even by those who support the broad message on them. They are an eyesore and a clear breach of regulations on posters, which should be erected on public property for short periods at election time only.

    "I would urge those who put them up to recognise their message may be damaged by leaving them in place, and thus to take them down swiftly. In the meantime, I have worked with my Council colleagues and have secured a pledge from the Council to have them down by the end of the month."

  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    19 October
    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said she remains convinced of the need to suspend the use of mesh in hernia repair procedures in Northern Ireland.

    Ms Bradshaw was speaking after meeting the Chief Medical Officer alongside representatives from the campaign group Hernia Mesh NI.

    "I am pleased we have two clear commitments from today's meeting - patient information before surgery will be improved and consultation involving campaigners will begin on a pathway for hernia mesh patients," she said.

    "We discussed also the urgent need for much improved information and data concerning complications arising from the use of mesh in hernia repair.

    "As we have seen in the case of vaginal mesh, I impressed upon the Chief Medical Officer the view of many patients there should be suspension of the use of mesh in Northern Ireland, at least pending further research and clearer UK-wide guidance. I hope this will be the case sooner rather than later."
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    18 October
    Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said he is disappointed further progress has not been made on the proposed backstop during negotiations between the UK Government and the EU.

    Dr Farry added he was further disappointed the Prime Minister refused a joint meeting request with the local Remain parties, including Alliance, over Brexit.

    "It is disappointing further progress has not been made, particularly as the October meeting was originally set as the deadline for agreement," he said.

    "It is clear the UK Government has not sufficiently advanced its own position, with apparent confusion over exactly what it is it wants.

    "While the backstop is not Alliance's preferred way forward, we recognise final agreement on it is of critical importance. It is an insurance policy which will protect the Good Friday Agreement and ensure an open border remains on the island of Ireland. The UK Government already made a commitment for it 'until or unless' another solution is agreed. Anything less would be a reversal of that commitment.

    "It is further disappointing the Prime Minister refused to meet with the Remain parties collectively. She claims to be acting on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland but is only listening to the DUP, who are presenting a distorted position, contrary to the Remain majority, who support the backstop.

    "As the deadlock continues, it is far from clear if there is any way through the mess of Brexit. It is vital the people of the UK have a chance as a whole to reconsider the decision to leave the EU."
  • Naomi Long
    18 October
    Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has said legislation giving civil servants enhanced powers to take decisions is only "a sticking plaster on a broken leg".

    Mrs Long was speaking after Karen Bradley brought the Bill to Westminster which lets civil servants act in a Minister's absence if they are satisfied the decisions are in the 'public interest'. It is expected to become law next week.

    "The Civil Service taking decisions is not in any way equivalent to politicians driving change through committees, Departments, the Assembly and the Executive," said Mrs Long.

    "While this legislation will effectively allow civil servants to take decisions of an urgent nature, there remain decisions which may not be urgent but are of strategic importance. If delayed, they carry with them significant implications and allow the deepening of the crises emerging across our public services, including our health and education systems. There are also decisions which though not urgent, if delayed, have a lost opportunity cost attached. They are not included in the remit of the legislation the Secretary of State has laid today.

    "This Bill allows for urgent intervention, but for Northern Ireland to function properly, we need more than just a sticking plaster on what is a broken leg. The only effective and sustainable solution is for local politicians to step up and do the job they were elected to do.

    "Whilst today's bill deals with a specific issue, we need more than patch repairs. We need the Secretary of State to focus her attention on getting meaningful talks underway that will see devolution restored as a matter of urgency."
  • Kellie Armstrong
    17 October

    Alliance Infrastructure spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA has welcomed news more buses are to be provided to meet increased passenger demand for public transport.

    Translink will add a new Urby express service from Dundonald Park and Ride, beginning on Monday (October 22). The service to the city centre will depart at 7.20am, 7.45am, 8.20am and 8.45am, picking up at Cherry Hill and Ulster Hospital. A return service will also depart Europa Buscentre at 3.50pm, 4.25pm, 5pm and 5.40pm, picking up at Custom House Square and Lanyon Place.

  • Stewart Dickson profile pic 1
    17 October

    Alliance Justice spokesperson Stewart Dickson MLA has welcomed the launch of a new campaign highlighting paramilitary-style attacks but added more needs done to combat the groups behind them.

    The Ending the Harm campaign, which is part of the Executive's Tackling Paramilitarism programme, is aimed showing the impact of the attacks on victims, their loved ones, local communities and wider society.

  • Stewart Dickson profile pic 2
    16 October
    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."

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