British government must inject momentum into powersharing efforts, Alliance leader says

British government must inject momentum into powersharing efforts, Alliance leader says
Naomi Long.

The British government must drop its care and maintenance approach to Northern Ireland and inject momentum into efforts to restore powersharing, Alliance leader Naomi Long has said.

Addressing party members at its spring conference in Belfast, Mrs Long said the ongoing drift was unsustainable.

"Since the collapse of the most recent talks, there has been no indication of how the government intends to move forward and get parties around the table again," she said.

"There has been a complete lack of forward momentum."

Mrs Long said the troubled process was now characterised by "lack of optimism, lack of trust, lack of vision, lack of leadership".

"We have spent the last 14 months in 'care and maintenance' - the big decisions about the reforms required to deliver high-quality sustainable health, education, infrastructure, economic development are simply not being taken," she said.

That cannot continue. The people of Northern Ireland deserve, they need, a functioning government. The current drift is simply unsustainable.

Mrs Long urged the other Stormont parties to embrace Alliance's proposals to break the deadlock.

The party's "Next Steps Forward" document proposes that the British government bypasses the impasse between the DUP and Sinn Féin on the Irish language and the ban on same-sex marriage by legislating on those issues at Westminster.

Irish Language protest at Stormont.
Irish Language protest at Stormont.

It also wants Assembly committees to be re-established so decisions currently being taken by the government and Northern Ireland's civil servants can be scrutinised by locally elected politicians.

The party also wants to reconvene the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference - a peace process construct that allows the Government to have a consultative role on some Northern Ireland issues.

Re-establishing the Policing Board, the PSNI's oversight body, has also been suggested by Alliance.

The party also wants to create a cross-party Brexit committee to ensure the region's voice is heard in the negotiations over the UK's exit from the EU.

In terms of the languishing talks process aimed at resurrecting devolution, Alliance wants an independent mediator appointed to drive the negotiations forward.

Mrs Long told the conference event in the Stormont Hotel: "We have shared our proposals with the other party leaders in a genuine attempt to create the space politically in which broader agreement is possible and an Executive can be formed.

"I remain as convinced as ever that a positive vision, bold ideas and strong leadership is the only way to move NI forward and realise the full potential of this society.

We all have a choice to make: do we stand still, squander the progress made and watch new opportunities pass us by? Or do we step forward, together and start to build that more equitable and just future, at peace with ourselves and with our neighbour, in which everyone has a stake?

"Do we allow fear and mistrust to hold us back, divide and weaken our community, limit us to living smaller lives? Or do we step forward together, in hope, to shape a future filled with possibility and opportunity, where we celebrate our diversity as a strength and create vibrant, open and welcoming communities in which all of us can flourish?"

- PA

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