Long urges all-party talks to enable key decisions to be taken again

Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has urged the Secretary of State to end the current drift at Stormont, after planning permission for an incinerator in Co Antrim was blocked by the High Court due to lack of democratic scrutiny.

The proposed facility in Mallusk was initially approved by the Department for Infrastructure but yesterday’s decision by Mrs Justice Keegan said the approval was unlawful as it was made in the absence of a Minister by senior civil servants and without any democratic accountability in place.

East Belfast MLA Mrs Long has now written to Secretary of State Karen Bradley, urging her to pursue Alliance proposals to both appoint an independent facilitator to restart all-party talks and to enable Assembly committees to sit and provide advice and scrutiny to Departments, with a view to enabling decisions on key issues to once again be made.

“Alliance shared the concerns of objectors regarding the suitability of the Hightown Road site as a location for the incinerator. While the ruling was welcome for rejecting that, it raised a significant challenge to the lawfulness of decision-making by the civil service in the absence of devolved institutions, an alternative mechanism for democratic accountability or the restoration of direct rule.

“There are a number of key infrastructure projects, the progress of which could be jeopardised by the implications of yesterday’s ruling, including the A5 Western Transport Corridor and the North-South interconnector.

“The Secretary of State needs to urgently appoint an independent facilitator to reconvene all-party talks as soon as possible and pursue agreement from all to have Assembly Committees sit, in order to scrutinise and advise Departments on key decisions and policy, taking forward legislation on issues.

“If she does not, Karen Bradley needs to state immediately what alternative measures she intends to bring forward to enable the civil service to make the vital decisions required for Northern Ireland to function on a sustainable basis. They cannot be avoided any longer.”

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