Deputy Leader Naomi Long’s Speech at Conference

Extract from Deputy Leader Naomi Long’s Alliance Party Conference speech criticising the poor performance of the Stormont Executive Parties.

Naomi Long said: “It is shameful that it is now more than three months since the Executive last sat around the table and took decisions. This summer has been characterised by increasing brinkmanshipand confrontational posturing, with threats of collasping the Executive and withdrawing Ministers being issued repeatedly.

“To be blunt, few people I know wake up at 4am in a lather of sweat, concerned about how they are going to refer to Northern Ireland as they go about their business later in the day. There are plenty, however, who are losing sleep because of concerns about how to put a loaf on the table, pay their heating an electricity bills, pay their mortagage and keep a roof over their head. Plenty of peopel are worried about their houses being flooded every time it rains and about how their child in P6 will transfer from primary to secondary school.

“Most people are angry that those people they elected to resolve these issues are not only failing to do so, but have taken their eye off the ball to indulge their own narrow party political obsessions.

“The DUP said, on entering the Executive with Sinn Fein, that it would be a “battle a day”. The sad reality is that as Sinn Fein and the DUP continue to battle daily with each other, the biggest losers in those battles have been the people of Northern Ireland and the biggest casualty has been public confidence in politics.

“Surely it is long past time for them to come together and battle together every day, not against each other, but for the wider community: to battle against fuel poverty; to battle against social exclusion; against homelessness; to battle for a fairer and better education system; for better support and services for those in poor mental health and those with learning difficulties; for a shared future and against the corrosive and poisonous sectarianism, racism and homophobia, and prejudice which pervades our community and blights peoples lives. “

“The people I meet are not just frustrated with the current lack of maturity – they are bored to tears with seeing political leaders squabbling like children at a time when there is serious and pressing work to be done. They are weary, after years of stop-go politics, to see the wheels come of an Executive that they hoped would be the vehicle to deliver a better quality of life for them and their children and which has, in reality, achieved precious little.

“Continued failure since 1998 to make the structures function for the benefit of the people, lack of delivery on their key issues, and repeated periods of instability and crisis of which this Executive spat is just the latest in a long line, not only undermines confidence in the current Executive, but is undermining confidence in politics altogether.

“As politicians we have a responsibility to prove that politics works. When the Executive is failing to do so and failing so publicly, it gives succour to those who remain wedded to violence as an alternative to democracy. It is no coincidence that at a time when we are witnessing political instability and crisis that those opposed to any political settlement are exploiting that instability, through violence directed at the Police Service and the wider community. When Hugh Orde told politicians to get their act together this week, I think he gave voice to a frustration which is not limited to those in the Police Service, but which I detect in almost every contact I have with the public.

“Patience with the Executive stand-off is not simply wearing thin – it has all but run out.”


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