Quick fixes and revolving doors no way to political progress

The Alliance Party will debate the political situation at the Dunadry Hotel on Saturday – and will be told that people’s cynicism will only be overcome by an inclusive process which delivers a genuinely firm foundation upon which to rebuild the institutions.

In proposing the motion, Deputy Leader Naomi Long MLA will say:

“Public confidence in the political process is already at a low ebb and people are, quite rightly, fed-up with the lack of political progress and the constant grand-standing of local parties and the Governments.

“The Secretary of State has identified that the current situation of suspension cannot continue indefinitely; however, if he wants to see lasting progress made in the timescale he is outlining then he needs to get a serious, intensive and inclusive process underway now which can

actually address all of the barriers to restoration of the Assembly.

“The Governments know that the structural problems which plagued the last Assembly are still there. It would be reckless to attempt to restore the Assembly, without addressing those weaknesses as part of the process.

“We must have a proper review of those structures, to ensure that any new Assembly is constructed on a firm foundation and is built to last. The Governments simply cannot afford to take short-cuts to get the Assembly back on the road, knowing that the wheels will inevitably come off at the next bump.

“More ‘revolving-door’ devolution, lasting a matter of weeks or months and ending in further suspension or total collapse will simply serve to completely erode what little public confidence remains in the whole project. People need a restored Assembly which lasts long enough to

actually deliver on the issues which really matter to us all – health, education, the environment, the economy, water charges.

“Whilst the two Governments have a particular responsibility in this process, it is way past time that the other parties asked themselves whether they are serious about consensus politics and delivering real leadership for the benefit of all, or whether they would prefer to

continue to shirk responsibility and just settle for direct rule, joint authority and a permanent sectarian stand-off.

“The posturing and game-playing must end now – parties need to be honest with the people about whether they have a genuine appetite for cross-party agreement, and if they are serious get on with it.”

Motion seconder, Alliance General Secretary Stephen Farry, will add:

“Eight years on from April 1998, it must be clear that all is not well with the Agreement. We have seen changes in this society for the better, but it must be surely clear to all that the institutions as designed are simply not working.

“Meanwhile, the deep structural problems remain. Sectarianism and segregation continue to cripple our economy while a culture of lawlessness pervades in many parts of Northern Ireland.

“Some would have you believe that this is all due to the faults of the two Governments, or breaches of faith on the part of Nationalists or Unionists. This is simply denial. They are not only mistakes with implementation, but flaws within the Agreement themselves.

“Politicians are rewarded for being as extreme and as inflexible as they like. Executive ministers are not encouraged to look out for the interests of the community as a whole, but just their own tradition. This is no way to govern a country.

“Those who stick their heads in the sand and pretend everything is well with the Agreement are an obstacle to progress. They are ‘Agreement fundamentalists’. The Governments have accepted the need for changes to be made to the Agreement. But I am concerned that the

Governments have only come to this conclusion due to the new electoral context with the rise of the extremes, rather than any appreciation of the much deeper problems with the Agreement.

“Quick fixes simply will not do.”


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