Hain must work with parties – Ford

Alliance Party Leader David Ford has said the Secretary of State must work with the Assembly parties on arrangements for the recall of the Assembly on 15 May – or risk the total collapse of the Assembly by the summer.

David Ford stated: “I was surprised to hear over the weekend that Mr Hain intends to draw up new standing orders and make other arrangements for the recall meeting of the Assembly without consulting the parties.

“We can understand why he feels that he needs powers to determine certain matters in the absence of agreement. However, I do not believe Mr Hain would lose anything by working with the parties. This work could proceed alongside the emergency Bill, which would ensure that the Secretary of State could determine matters if there was no agreement.

“Progress is dependent upon a large degree of consensus. Without that, the institutions will have been established, yet again, on shaky foundations. If anyone – even the Secretary of State – acts alone, the only consensus is likely to be that we all disagree with him. That would make progress impossible and endanger the whole process.

“It would be far better at least to make some initial attempt at finding agreement between the parties.

“The Governments have set a deadline of 24 November for the restoration of devolution. If we hope to see an Executive in place in eight months, a first step would be to agree on procedures for the Assembly in the five weeks before 15 May.

“I have therefore asked the Secretary of State to convene a meeting of the parties to see what measure of agreement there is on arrangements for the reconvening of the Assembly. There is nothing to be lost by such a move and potentially much to be gained. I have told Mr Hain that it is at least worth an honest attempt.

“It is quite clear that the public is fed up with posturing and stand-off, and that the people will not forgive parties who do not make an honest attempt at securing genuine progress. That is why the Governments must at least give them the chance.”


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