Failure to reform Assembly and Executive risks future of devolution, says Long, as she writes to Governments

Naomi Long

Failure to reform the Assembly and Executive risks the future of devolution, Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has said.

Mrs Long has written to both the UK and Irish Governments, outlining a series of proposals for immediate reform of the Assembly and Executive, saying the moves would not only facilitate the formation of both but would also secure the long-term stability of the institutions.

“We are once again in an all too familiar period of Executive and Assembly collapse,” said Mrs Long.

“This Friday marks six weeks since the first attempted sitting of the Assembly and eight weeks from the election. Unfortunately, with the DUP’s continuing refusal to back the nomination of a Speaker and deputy First Minister, we are again locked into a cycle of crisis and collapse, leaving the public with no government at a time when they should be tackling the cost of living crisis and the state of public services.

“The New Decade, New Approach agreement pledged to increase the sustainability of the institutions but the actions taken so far have clearly been insufficient. They also fail to acknowledge the structures themselves create vetoes and allow them to be exploited. Unless we reform the institutions themselves, we will never break this vicious pattern of ransom politics and end for good the institutions being taken hostage by any one party.

“At a minimum, changes need to be made to the process of nominating a First and deputy First Minister, so if a party is unwilling to nominate, the opportunity passes to the next largest party. To facilitate effective government, weighted majority voting should replace parallel consent for ‘cross-community’ votes in the Assembly. In addition, the use of petitions of concern and for ‘cross-community’ votes within the Executive should be restricted to specified issues, to prevent wider abuse.

“The case for reform is indisputable and acknowledged by all parties, as shown by an Alliance Assembly motion in the last mandate, and the work of the Assembly and Executive Review Committee. These proposals represent modest changes but will future proof the institutions, incentivise collaboration between parties, and ensure every MLA is treated equally.

“Rather than focusing on meeting the latest ransom demands of any one party, this is where government needs to focus to end this destructive cycle for good. To fail to do so will be catastrophic for the future of devolution in Northern Ireland.”

Alliance's proposals on reform of the Assembly and Executive are available here.