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Focus needs to go back on restoring devolved institutions, says Long

The lack of focus on restoring the devolved institutions is intolerable, Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has said, on the anniversary of the collapse of the last talks process.

One year ago today, discussions between the DUP and Sinn Féin to return to power-sharing broke down. Mrs Long said it was "disgraceful" no formal all-party engagement had taken place since then, apart from several meetings arranged by the Alliance Leader herself.

"It is completely indefensible we are one year on from the last serious prolonged engagement between the DUP and Sinn Féin, which resulted in a draft agreement but ultimately no deal. It has been two years from the collapse of the institutions and yet no serious engagement or process is in place to resolve this impasse." said Mrs Long.

"This past year has increased the frustration and anger of the public towards not only the two parties, but with the Assembly and politics more generally. Continued inaction is undermining any remaining shred of public confidence in politics to deliver for our community.

"Alliance has not simply criticised from the sidelines - we have put viable solutions on the table, whether our Next Steps Forward document dealing with the return of devolution or proposals to break the stand-off over the Irish language, to reform and strengthen governance in any restored Assembly and Executive, and to end the abuse of the petition of concern.

"All of that work has been focused on ensuring we not only get devolution restored, but also any restored Assembly and Executive can actually deliver sustainable and effective government for everyone in our community.

"In frustration, Alliance has convened discussions between parties ourselves to at least reinstate some kind of contact, however, ultimately there needs to be a reinvigorated formal talks process with an independent facilitator to drive it if we are to make real progress rather than continue to drift.

"While the process is stalled, issues like Brexit, and financial pressures in health and education are continuing apace with no meaningful opportunity for MLAs to respond to those challenges and shape better outcomes for those who elected us. Unquestionably, they will all have a massive impact on us for many years to come and every day they remain unaddressed carries a huge long-term cost for us all.

"The two Governments and the parties now need to focus on the resolution of this impasse and restoration of the devolved institutions. Then we can do what Alliance MLAs want to do, which is all of our jobs and representing our constituents in the way we were elected to do."