Long says independent talks facilitator should be appointed without further delay

Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has said an independent facilitator should be appointed to chair all-party talks without further delay.

The East Belfast MLA was speaking ahead of planned meetings with Secretary of State Karen Bradley and Tánaiste Simon Coveney, and the other party leaders this week to discuss the ongoing impasse. She said the drift which has been ongoing since talks collapsed in February cannot continue any longer.

“Another week has passed since the Secretary of State announced there would be further concentrated efforts to restore power-sharing devolution, yet there has been no indication that the Governments have decided where to go from here,” she said.

“Alliance’s Next Steps Forward document put proposals to both Governments and the other parties which still represent the best chance of resolving the ongoing political stand-off. Key to our proposals was an independent facilitator, something which we first called for a year ago. In June we supplied a list of individuals, of national and international standing, who we felt may be able to assist. On each occasion when we raised this, we were told the talks were close to concluding and it would be disruptive to bring someone in from outside.

“That is clearly not the case now – there is simply no activity to disrupt. We now have a window of opportunity to appoint a facilitator who can start to engage with all parties ahead of the summer, get up to speed with all of the issues and start to structure the intensive work required to restore the institutions.

“The last round of talks ended in bitter recriminations, with claims and counter-claims exchanged between the two main parties, reinforcing the need for independent oversight of any new process. Only the appointment of a facilitator can start to rebuild trust between the parties, inject some urgency and direction into the process, and provide the public with reassurances those they elected are living up to their responsibilities to make devolution work.”

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