2022 will bring best opportunity for people to vote to deliver real change, says Long

The new year will bring the best opportunity for people to vote to deliver real change in our community in May’s Assembly election, Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has said.

Speaking during her New Year’s message, the Justice Minister also said, at a time when our community faces huge challenges, whether due to COVID, climate change or the realities of Brexit, people have the right to expect stability, delivery and leadership for everyone from political parties. She said those threatening the future of the Assembly were offering no solutions, but merely adding to the problems.

“As we face into a new year, most of us hoped COVID would be behind us. Unfortunately that is not the case and we remain in the midst of the pandemic,” she said.

“I would encourage people to continue to follow the health guidance and do all you can to look after yourself and your family, protect the NHS and help support local businesses through this challenging time. Hopefully, 2022 will be a better year for us all.

“Equally, while we hoped talks between the UK and EU would have concluded, instead they rumble on, creating both business and political uncertainty.

“Whilst we cannot dictate the future of the pandemic, we can play a part in delivering a better future for our community in the Assembly election in May. That election offers the best chance for change in a generation to deliver an Assembly and Executive better able to face the challenges which lie ahead with constructive solutions and unity of purpose.

“Recently, several Assembly votes to deliver progress have been lost by a handful of MLAs, such as Alliance’s Bill to ban hunting mammals with dogs. With even a few more Alliance MLAs, we can deliver the positive changes people demand.

“Over the coming months, Alliance MLAs will continue to work to deliver change via Private Member’s Bills currently before the Assembly, including to support improved access to integrated education and removing the exemption of teachers from fair employment legislation. In addition, as a Minister, I have completed primary legislation on domestic abuse, personal injury compensation and reform of the committal process to speed up justice and protect vulnerable victims and witnesses. I now have two final pieces of legislation due to complete before the Assembly is dissolved, on stalking and dealing with serious sexual offences and human trafficking.

“All of that legislation and the wider programme of work of the Alliance team is focused on improving the lived experiences of people right across Northern Ireland and delivering positive, progressive change which will make our community fairer, more inclusive and build the shared and prosperous future to which we aspire. It also demonstrates the positive impact that a working Assembly with committed Ministers can have.

“I would urge those issuing ever more desperate threats to bring down the Assembly, instead to focus on demonstrating they are actually willing and able to do the job they were elected to do. Alliance has and will continue to focus on delivery for our entire community and on ensuring 2022 is not just a good year for the party, but more importantly, for the people we serve.”