The North Down MLA said while the Easter deadline set by the Secretary of State to conclude talks was fast approaching, “little sense of momentum” was evident in the process.
“More and more political, economic, social and financial challenges are piling up for Northern Ireland due to the deadlock of the past few months in particular, plus years of underperformance and missed opportunity from dysfunctional governance. Unless addressed, Northern Ireland risks becoming a backwater.
“This week is critical in that process, with the stakes incredibly high. While on many of the issues themselves the gaps are seemingly narrow, the divisions between the parties are often deep, with mistrust, lack of respect, and inflexibility hindering agreement.
“The roundtable format offers the opportunity for more focused engagement, but there remains little sense of momentum on the part of a number of parties, and even an air of complacency over the consequences of continued deadlock.
“Failure will call into question the very concept of power-sharing and regional devolution, and many of the assumptions that have driven the political process for two decades. In the context of Brexit and with many voices across the EU looking to help Northern Ireland, the absence of a functioning Executive with a coherent plan to obtain that assistance could become a major tragedy. We are more vulnerable to Brexit than any other region, and need a solution which respects the shared and inter-locking nature of politics, economics and identity.
“Even in its simplest terms, an argument over precisely how many millions it would take to implement an Irish Language Act pales into insignificance when set beside the lost opportunities in terms of economic change and human suffering experienced in an unreformed and unsustainable, cash starved health service.
“It is therefore vital all parties focus this week on the bigger picture and act in the common good through putting in place the basis for a restored Executive with a viable plan for Brexit and a set of progressive policies which can fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the people who voted to see Northern Ireland success rather than fall apart.”