Long gives cautious welcome to talks announcement

Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has given a cautious welcome to the announcement of new talks but reiterated they need to be all-party with an independent mediator if they are to have any possibility of success.

Mrs Long was speaking after Secretary of State Karen Bradley said a new “short and intense” phase of talks would begin next Wednesday. She is due to update Parliament on progress no later than February 7.

“The DUP and Sinn Féin have had since last summer to talk amongst themselves. Whilst we have continued to offer solutions, engage in bilateral meetings with other parties and the two Governments, the level of meaningful engagement in the talks process outside of those two parties has been extremely limited since then. That drift has been against the backdrop of people losing jobs, budgets being cut and services being put under further pressure,” the Alliance Leader said.

“That phase of the process has failed to deliver any tangible progress and it is now time for all parties to be directly involved. We not only need a change of pace in these talks but a marked change in attitude from the two largest parties, if we are to see the Assembly restored.

“The appointment of an independent facilitator would be another significant step forward and we are disappointed that has not yet happened. Alliance first raised this matter before last summer and we were told there was no time for someone to get across the issues which were close to resolution.

“Seven months later, we are no further on and rather than waste further time, a facilitator should be appointed immediately. If we are to have a successful talks process with a sustainable deal, an impartial chair will increase that likelihood dramatically.”

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