Long: SOS intervention is long overdue

Alliance Leader Naomi Long has said the success of the Secretary of State’s latest plan for Northern Ireland will be seen through the actions of all involved in coming weeks, and added the interventions were “long overdue”.

Speaking after Karen Bradley revealed her plan in the House of Commons – which included interim decision making measures and details over the future of MLA salaries – Mrs Long said she’s glad to see the SOS “finally rise to the challenge”, after Alliance convened the first meeting of the political parties in eight months this week.

“The public anger at the political drift here is growing, so if the Secretary of State is confident that what she has outlined today will be the catalyst to get things moving again, particularly with respect to key decisions that are required, then that is to be welcomed,” she said.

“There is up to £2bn of investment being held up due to the inability to take strategic decisions, and it is imperative that the Secretary of State’s proposals unblock that as a matter of urgency.

“It was also clear on Monday when, in the absence of any kind of leadership from the SOS and her team, representatives of all parties responded to my invite to get around the table and begin the process of finding lasting solutions to the many issues that still divide us, that there was a clear need for the two Governments to live up to their respective responsibilities.

“That the SOS has responded so quickly to our call for her to step up and fulfil her role to the fullest is to be welcomed: it remains to be seen how these plans will roll out, and we will be meeting with her on Monday to discuss the detail of her proposals.

“The challenge now is ensuring that any momentum created over this last week is maintained and carried forward and that parties refocus on resolving their differences to deliver proper devolved government.

“The frustration and anger felt by the public and my colleagues and I, was left unaddressed for far too long; however, I welcome that she has finally taken a decision to cut MLA pay. It was in May last year that the Alliance Party was the first to call for a cut in salaries, and now over a year later we finally have movement on the issue.

“Whilst all of these interim measures are important, the crucial issue for Alliance remains unchanged – 18 months of no Government is unacceptable and we now need a clear timescale for fresh, inclusive talks, with an independent facilitator appointed immediately, to secure devolution for generations to come.”

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