Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has said there needs to be an immediate intensification in the UK Government’s attempts to restore powersharing, on the anniversary of the talks deadline last year.
Then Secretary of State James Brokenshire set the deadline of June 29, 2017 to restore the Executive following the General Election earlier that month. However, the failure to do so led to further deadlines and a collapse of the latest talks in February 2018, since when there have been no further talks.
“We are now one year to the day since the Secretary of State set the deadline to appoint a new Executive following the election. At that point it was already over six months since the collapse of the institutions,” said Ms Long.
“We have been without any Government for the past 18 months at a crucial point, as Brexit negotiations continue and other challenges remain. But it now appears the restoration of devolution has been parked until Brexit is resolved.
“In the interim, we are in a situation of having laws incompatible with human rights law and a civil service unable to take decisions on significant issues. Meanwhile, a range of other key reforms in health, education and other public services are unable to happen.
“This situation is increasingly frustrating and completely unsustainable. There appears to have been no efforts made, bar yesterday’s announcement of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, to reengage parties or address impediments to devolution through Westminster since the collapse of negotiations.
“Alliance’s Next Steps Forward document provides constructive suggestions to re-establish devolution but aside from that initiative, we are no further on with the overall process. Local parties have primary responsibility for the collapse but the Secretary of State has a duty to drive the process and ensure Northern Ireland is effectively governed. We need to take urgent steps to appoint an independent facilitator and allow them the next few weeks to engage with parties ahead of all-party talks and a restoration in the autumn.
“Alliance has been constructive rather than critical throughout this period but we need to see a serious upswing in the Government’s intensity and strategy or else the damage to public services, the economy and individuals will get worse.”