Armstrong calls on Secretary of State to legislate for petition of concern reform

Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has called on the Secretary of State to legislate for reform of the petition of concern mechanism, to allow the restoration of the Assembly.

Ms Armstrong said it was increasingly clear the current approach to the talks was not going to produce the foundation for the restoration of the Assembly, however, a reform of the veto mechanism meant issues such as an Irish Language Act and equal marriage could be debated on the Assembly floor instead of serving as blockages to the return of power-sharing.

“Alliance has consistently highlighted the existence of mutual vetoes, including how the abuse of the petition of concern has significantly contributed to the political deadlock. We have argued the petition needs radical reform to bring it back into line with the original spirit it was intended for in the Good Friday Agreement, which was to avoid discrimination against any particular section of the community. We have proposed the petition can only be used in the context of matters of national identity, legacy issues and matters relating to the constitutional structures of Northern Ireland.

“In the event of the October deadline being missed, it is vital the UK Government tries to change the nature of the ongoing discourse and to incentivise progress. Therefore, Alliance is calling on the Secretary of State to directly legislate on petition of concern reform through Westminster and see if the Assembly can then be restored in that new context.

“Issues, such as an Irish Language Act and equal marriage, can then be addressed through open debate and decision-making on the floor of the Assembly. Alliance does not believe any party has anything to fear from this approach, with any outcome in the Assembly reflecting realistically proportional outcomes on all issues and echo the clear views of the people of Northern Ireland.”

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