Poor preparation could lead to Assembly collapse: Ford

Alliance Party Leader David Ford has demanded intensive, inclusive talks upon the re-establishment of the Assembly on 15 May — and said the likely alternative to proper preparation is Assembly collapse.

David Ford stated: “We still do not know what the Assembly will be debating, what precise times it will be meeting, or how the Secretary of State intends to proceed when we cannot elect a First and Deputy First Minister on 22 May.

“Our members were elected to do a job two and half years ago, and we will be attending and participating from 15 May. But we would also like to be attending and participating in preparatory talks, to try to give it the best possible chance. As these have not happened before the re-establishment of the Assembly, they should happen immediately after the likely failure to elect a First and Deputy First Minister.

“It seems the Government is planning for failure, but not for the consequences.

“Since the Assembly election of November 2003, there has been no meaningful, inclusive process to address the problems with the Agreement. It is time to change that, and responsibility lies in this case with the Governments.

“Alliance has put forward specific proposals in many areas. We published ‘Agenda for Democracy’ two years ago, but this has never been discussed the inclusive manner we intended.

“When the Government announced ‘intensive talks’ for earlier this year, they consisted of four meetings, barely an hour each, over eight weeks. That is stretching the dictionary definition of ‘intensive’ somewhat!

“Last year, we called for a round table on the economy, led by the Government and including parties, social partners, business leaders and trades unions. Instead, the Secretary of State plans a highly unsatisfactory half-day seminar and a debate with no formal resolution.

“All this comes from Ministers who talk about MLAs not taking responsibility! It is time they lived up to their responsibilities!

“If the Assembly is not expected to elect Ministers in May, the Governments cannot wait until the autumn to take action. There should be immediate, inclusive, intensive talks.

“Alliance MLAs are ready and willing to deal with whatever business is put before us — provided it is meaningful and leads to an end of unaccountable ministers acting against the interests of Northern Ireland.

“If some parties, or some MLAs, won’t do their jobs, then let’s see them exposed.”


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