SPEAKING this afternoon from the Leeds Castle political talks, Alliance Leader David Ford MLA stated:
“Today, I believe there are more grounds for optimism than there were 24 hours ago. A degree of positive engagement between parties and with the two governments has led to a number of ideas being discussed in greater detail.
“We have put compromise proposals which seek to break the deadlock on issues like the voting system, collective responsibility, the election of First and Deputy First Ministers and accountability of all ministers.
“While there is still much work yet to be done, the situation is more hopeful than it was yesterday.”
Alliance Deputy Leader Eileen Bell MLA added:
“Alliance has continued to press home to the Government the necessity to deal with the issues of victims and exiles in a meaningful manner. While restoring the political institutions, and an end to paramilitarism are obviously very important, if society as a whole is to move forward, these are issues that cannot be ignored.
“We cannot simply ignore matters that are significant to those who have suffered as a result of the Troubles any longer. Unless we deal with these issues, we would be letting down all of those who have paid a heavy cost for the political failures of the past.
“It would be the ultimate hypocrisy if, for example, paramilitary ‘On The Runs’ could return to Northern Ireland in safety, while those on the run from paramilitaries could not. If we are to genuinely move on, we need a commitment that those exiled by the paramilitaries can feel free to come home again.
“All such threats must be lifted.”