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MLA News

  • Chris Lyttle
    last Friday

    Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle has welcomed news funding has been found to keep a physical education initiative delivered by the IFA and GAA going for the next six months.

    The Curriculum Sports Programme has been running for 10 years, with IFA and GAA-affiliated coaches delivering physical literacy to 38,000 primary school children per year across 450 local schools.

  • Kellie Armstrong
    last Friday

    Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has called for improved miscarriage support in Northern Ireland, saying many women are currently not receiving the compassionate care needed.

    Speaking during Babyloss Awareness Week, the Strangford MLA, who has experienced miscarriage, said the lack of emotional support often meant women experienced mental ill health as a result of their experience.

    "Babyloss is traumatic enough but I am aghast at the many women who, like me, were not provided with follow-up support, especially in relation to grief. While the Department of Health claims its bereavement guidance covers all areas, I would challenge them to produce a monitoring report to confirm how effective it actually is.

    "The Department does not record how many miscarriages there are in Northern Ireland, with only the women who miscarry in hospital recorded. I have therefore submitted a motion to the Assembly calling for a register to be created recording all miscarriages, as well as the establishment of a comprehensive bereavement care pathway, and the creation of a national day of mourning on October 15 to mark Babyloss Awareness Week.

    "Due to the political impasse, this motion cannot be brought forward at this time. But when the Assembly returns, I will bring it forward as soon as possible, so the many women who suffer this tragedy do not have their hurt compounded any more."
  • Paula Bradshaw profile pic 2
    last Wednesday

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has welcomed additional money being made available to the health service, saying she expects it to be an eleventh hour reprieve against proposed cuts to the health Trusts.

    The South Belfast MLA was speaking after the Department of Finance proposed an extra £40 million to go to the Department of Health, subject to ratification by a Budget Bill. She said while the money was welcome, the question remained as to why the health Trust consultations were carried out.

    "I expect the extra money from this Monitoring Round to go to the Trusts, which were having to introduce higher impact savings measures following a recent consultation into their services. This overdue clarification means cuts which would have had a serious impact on people's wellbeing and quality of life need not happen.

    "However, the question is why the Trusts were required to initiate and pursue the charade of this consultation process, when growing indications of exactly this amount of money being made available for health have persisted for the past number of weeks. Staff, patients and families have had worries stoked up for no reason.

    "There should be no illusions we remain in a precarious position, despite this money. While this stands down the proposed frontline cuts, we still need to reform the system, ensure more can be done in primary care to bring down waiting lists, and consider what other savings can be made across government to ensure we can maintain a high quality health service free at point of access."
  • David Ford
    last Tuesday
    Assembly Speaker Robin Newton should resign from the role with immediate effect, Alliance MLA David Ford has said.

    Mr Ford was speaking after a BBC Spotlight programme, which showed documents alleging Mr Newton misled the Assembly over his role with Charter NI, acting as adviser to the SIF-funded group, despite stating to the Chamber he held no such position.

    Mr Newton, who blocked an Assembly question into the activities of Charter NI last year, will continue receiving the Speakers' wage until the Assembly sits again and he is replaced.

    "If these allegations are true, and judging by the documents unveiled on tonight's programme, they are, then the Speaker has no option but to resign his role with immediate effect," said Mr Ford.

    "Alliance would not support his re-election as Speaker, not only due to this but how he mishandled several debates in the Chamber, including about RHI and an Alliance motion calling for an investigation into SIF, which was subsequently blocked by the DUP and Sinn Féin. We would also seek to refer Mr Newton to the Commissioner for Standards, once there is a new person elected to that role.

    "Alliance recognises people with a paramilitary past can play a positive and constructive role in society. But when people with a paramilitary present are doing so, there is a problem. That is the situation with some individuals in Charter NI.

    "We have serious concerns about the lack of fairness and effective use of resources being directed towards certain groups, which is why we wrote in the summer to ask for an Audit Office investigation into SIF.

    "There also needs to be a revised paramilitary strategy which is backed by all parties and which has clearly defined goals and targets. Only by doing so can we finally remove the poison of paramilitarism from society."

  • Chris Lyttle20171
    last Tuesday

    Alliance Education spokesperson Chris Lyttle MLA has welcomed the commitment given by CCEA to reopen marking for GCSE and AS-Level English Literature papers for a week after questions were raised over results.

    A number of GCSE English Literature pupils have seen an increase in their results after having their papers re-marked. Hundreds of AS-Level English Literature students are also believed to have asked for their papers to be re-marked as well.

    CCEA has now announced re-marking for the subject will reopen until October 17, with consideration also being given to free of charge re-marks for those pupils who receive free school meals.

    "Trust in our education system and those who grade pupils is paramount. I welcome this move by CCEA to reopen the re-marking system for another week. It is also welcome the organisation appears to recognise the need for a wider review of the charges applied for appeals. I hope that helps restore some of the confidence lost over the past few days.

    "While it is a good move by CCEA, there is now a legitimate public concern on the fitness, fairness and accessibility of the marking system, particularly when it comes to English Literature, as well as the system of charges which apply for anyone wishing to access the re-marking system.

    "I would urge CCEA to give the utmost consideration to suspending all charges for those who wish to see their English Literature papers re-marked and the risk of grade reductions, given the exceptional circumstances pertaining to this matter."
  • Kellie Armstrong
    last Tuesday

    The local economy is losing £30 million a year due to sick days related to mental health, Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has said.

    The Strangford MLA was speaking after hosting an event for the Action Mental Health group at Parliament Buildings for World Mental Health Day. The theme this year is mental health in the workplace, an issue Ms Armstrong said ever more vital in Northern Ireland.

    "The issue of mental health has been in the headlines in recent times, with recent statistics showing one in every five adults will suffer a mental health problem at some stage in our lifetime.

    "Not only does this increase pressures on an already overburdened health service but it also impacts hugely on the economy by accounting for a sizeable chunk of sick days among Northern Ireland's businesses and services. It is estimated the local economy loses £30 million every year on this issue.

    "Action Mental Health operates a host of initiatives to empower those with mental health issues impacting their private lives and also in need of support at work, and I would encourage businesses to become involved.

    "In addition, the Equality Commission's Mental Health Charter provides a framework for working towards mentally healthy workplaces. Companies who sign up can undertake good mental health, which will not only be beneficial to the, and their employees, but the whole community."
  • Stewart Dickson profile pic 1
    last Monday
    Alliance East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson has expressed his shock after the discovery of a man's body in Larne.

    The deceased was found at a house in Hillmount Gardens in the town around 1.35pm today (Monday). There had also been a small fire in the property. The 56-year-old man was confirmed dead at the scene.

    "I would like to pass on my condolences to the loved ones of this man. My thoughts are with them at this time," said Mr Dickson.

    The community will be shocked by this, particularly given its brutal nature. It is shocking it could be carried out in a quiet residential area.

    "Those responsible must be brought to justice before the courts as soon as possible - they are clearly dangerous individuals and could pose a danger to others.

    "If anyone has any information about this murder, I urge them to contact police with it immediately."

  • Chris Lyttle20171
    last Monday
    Alliance Education spokesperson Chris Lyttle MLA has contacted the Department of Education and Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) asking for urgent clarification after questions were raised over English Literature exam results.

    It emerged on BBC's Nolan Show a number of GCSE English Literature pupils saw an increase in their results after having papers re-marked. Hundreds of AS-Level English Literature students are also believed to have asked for their papers to be re-marked as well.

    Mr Lyttle, the former Deputy Chair of the Assembly's Education Committee, said it was a "shocking" situation.

    "This issue has clearly affected a number of pupils and it is therefore of great concern. If the Assembly was operating and the Education Committee sitting, I would be asking the Department and CCEA to come and answer questions on this matter immediately.

    "Therefore in its absence, I have written to the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education and also CCEA asking for urgent clarification on this issue. There is major pressure put on pupils and teachers to get good results, and we must be able to rely on the results achieved.

    "Some of the disparities uncovered and the numbers of pupils seeking remarks are shocking. We need answers and we need them soon, so we can keep trust in our education system."

  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    8 October

    Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has said it is now well past time for the DUP and Sinn Féin to make a deal and form an Executive.

    Dr Farry said the two bigger parties had no barriers or excuses left and needed to get beyond the political impasse which has exacerbated problems in health and education, as well as other sectors.

    "We are six weeks into this current phase of the ongoing talks saga of 2017. The people of Northern Ireland have shown extraordinary patience in tolerating this situation while the crisis in our health and education systems, and other public services is increasing, opportunities to grow our economy are being missed, and Northern Ireland has no governmental voice in crucial Brexit negotiations.

    "Space has been given to the DUP and Sinn Féin to overcome their differences, and to establish if and how they can sustain a workable power-sharing administration. Both have stated in recent weeks they are fully committed to the power-sharing institutions and to getting devolution up and running again. We are told significant progress on a range of issues has been made. Yet, apparently differences on certain matters, notably language and cultural issues, remain stark.

    "A deal has always been doable on the restoration of the institutions at any stage. Alliance has constantly played a constructive role in trying to overcome divisions, even in circumstances where we did not believe that standoff was justifiable. In particular, we have tabled comprehensive proposals on a possible way forward on language issues.

    "It is hard to imagine what more DUP and Sinn Féin could conceivably discuss on the outstanding issues. If they are simply going around in circles, then they need to admit that and consideration to other forms of self-government then needs to commence. If there is a deal to be done, then it needs to be done now.

    "The time has come for the parties and governments to call this talks process one way or another."

  • Chris Lyttle20172
    6 October
    Alliance East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle has renewed calls for the UK, US and Canadian Governments to collectively resolve the ongoing trade dispute between Bombardier and Boeing, after Bombardier was hit with further tariffs.

    Mr Lyttle made the calls in letters to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Business Secretary Greg Clark, US Vice President Mike Pence, US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as the US Department of Commerce imposed another tariff of 80 per cent in addition to the 220 per cent last month.

    The East Belfast MLA said the interim rulings ran contrary to the spirit of open competition.

    "Bombardier is the cornerstone of the manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland, both as the largest employer and enabler of a wider engineering supply chain. Any permanent negative ruling against it would have a massive impact on many livelihoods and the wider economy.

    "Alliance has already been in contact with the highest reaches of the UK, US and Canadian Governments, and these letters reiterate the need for the Governments to facilitate and broker an outcome to this dispute.

    "There remains a short time in which this matter can still fairly resolved and I hope the Governments take the opportunity to ensure an outcome which supports free and open competition, and protects Bombardier's critical presence in Northern Ireland."

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