Armstrong: One week on from GFA anniversary, new talks process essential

Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has said last week’s anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement should provide fresh impetus to get power-sharing talks established again immediately.

The Strangford MLA has challenged the Secretary of State to inject fresh momentum into the talks process by quickly moving beyond the DUP-Sinn Féin dynamic, adding the Alliance Party’s clear Next Steps proposals were ready and able to form the basis of a talks process focused on restoring Devolution.

The Next Steps Forward document suggestions include reconstituting Assembly Committees, reconvening the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and progressing legislation which was at an advanced stage before the collapse of power-sharing, all in parallel with a reconfigured talks process.

“Despite the current setbacks and ongoing impasse, this past week was a reminder of how far we have come as a society. Although some are dismissive of them, the vision and values of the Good Friday Agreement are more important than ever. Central to that is the concept of a locally accountable power-sharing Government,” said Ms Armstrong.

“The DUP-Sinn Féin process has been allowed to go on long enough. The Secretary of State must look at alternative ways to move the process forward, capitalising on the good will and spirit of co-operation that has been so celebrated over the past week.

“The Next Steps Forward document showcases the positive vision, bold ideas and strong leadership needed to move this process forward, all while respecting the spirit of the Agreement. In the absence of any other proposals, particularly from the biggest two parties, this is a good starting point for talks, while helping break the impasse and rebuilding political relationships and trust.

“Alliance is determined to play its part in restoring a fully functioning and effective Assembly and Executive, so MLAs and parties can re-engage on issues such as health and education, while clearing the backlog of decisions which haven’t been taken due to the lack of Ministers.

“Now Easter is over and the Good Friday Agreement anniversary has passed, we owe it to the public and all those who paved the way for the Agreement to honour its foresight by getting inclusive, all-party talks convened as soon as possible.”

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