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MLA News

  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    3 PM yesterday

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has warned an Executive must be up and running to enable an overturn of the so-called 'rape clause' in Northern Ireland.

    The new law requires new claimants having to prove a child has been conceived via rape if they wish to claim tax credits for more than two children.

    "I have been in contact with the UK Government to investigate ways in which this can be overturned. While the General Election has returned a Government which will pursue the same policy, it has been made clear in correspondence in Northern Ireland this is a matter for the Department for Communities.

    "It will be required under 'parity' to deliver similar outcomes, but it may choose its own guidance for implementing this - potentially allowing the 'rape clause' to be overturned in Northern Ireland.

    "We owe it to the public to at least investigate every possible avenue to overturn a policy which would be so appalling in practice for many women. In order to do this, we will need a functioning Executive with a Communities Minister in place and the right set of priorities for delivery for the public here."
  • Stephen Farry profile pic 1
    2 PM yesterday

    Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry has said while additional money for Northern Ireland must be welcomed, it is important the DUP-Conservative deal does not become a missed opportunity.

    Dr Farry was speaking after the pact between the two parties was signed. It will see the DUP support Theresa May's minority Government in return for a range of agreements in relation to Northern Ireland.

    However, the North Down MLA said there needed to be caution expressed around the contents of the deal.

    "Any additional resources for Northern Ireland must be welcomed, particularly in the short-term. But while we must be mindful of the detail and implications of what has been made public today, we must also be vigilant around any side deals which may have also been struck.

    "Any extra money cannot be simply used to plug the financial gaps we have. Instead this windfall must be used to drive reform of public services to make them more sustainable. However, the mention of previously agreed funding for shared education and housing to be dispersed flexibly is not a good sign.

    "In terms of our economy, it must be recognised the single biggest economic difficulty facing Northern Ireland is uncertainty over our future relationship with the EU. In particular, our doubtful future participation in both the customs union and single market means commitments around corporation tax and air passenger duty can only have a limited benefit unless the deeper issue is satisfactorily resolved.

    "The deal makes clear there will be ongoing 'co-ordination' meetings between the DUP and Conservatives. That does raise inevitable political implications, especially as the DUP are committed to delivering the narrow Tory version of Brexit. That will now make the obtainment of a special deal for Northern Ireland more difficult."
  • Naomi Long
    4 PM Friday

    Alliance Leader Naomi Long has said Tuesday is the real deadline for talks to reach a successful conclusion.

    Mrs Long was speaking after another week in the ongoing process, in which she described progress as being "frustratingly slow". Less than one week remains before the June 29 deadline set by the Secretary of State for the conclusion of the talks.

    "Unfortunately, progress this week has again been frustratingly slow. Whilst there has been more intensive engagement between parties, there is very little evidence of any tangible progress. We are up against the clock and we now need to focus on getting agreement.

    "The deadline for these talks to reach a successful conclusion is effectively Tuesday - while we welcome the fact the DUP and Sinn Fein appear to finally be buckling down to try and close the gaps between them, it needs to be remembered if they run the clock out on those issues, there will be no time left to deal with the issues other parties have raised as part of this process.

    "If the DUP and Sinn Fein truly want a multi-party Executive, they need to deal with all the issues on the table thoroughly and treat all parties in the process equally."
  • Kellie Armstrong
    1 PM Friday

    Alliance Infrastructure spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA has written to the Permanent Secretary of Infrastructure to ask why his Department is pushing ahead with internal plans to change school minibus licensing without any consultation or published clarification.

    Ms Armstrong was speaking after it was revealed schools were facing new restrictions on which teachers can drive school minibuses due to changes in the rules by Department for Infrastructure (DfI). The Strangford MLA, a former Director for Northern Ireland of the Community Transport Association, said in her experience there had been a push to exclude community workers and teachers from being able to drive minibuses.

  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    2 PM Wednesday

    Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw has said she believes the victims and survivors of institutional abuse have been let down again after she discovered the compensation scheme was unlikely to start before next year.

    South Belfast MLA Ms Bradshaw was speaking after a meeting with the Civil Service in which it was confirmed because the Hart Report into historical institutional abuse was published at the same time as the Executive collapsed, the Executive had not yet had a chance to consider its recommendations.

    It would only be after this a financial ask could be submitted to the Secretary of State to cover the redress. However, due to the current financial situation, it is unlikely this would take place within this financial year.

    Ms Bradshaw said she was "devastated" for the victims and survivors.

    "The victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse deserve justice now, they have waited long enough. It is incumbent their dignified and courageous campaign is recognised and they receive the redress they deserve.

    "People should not have to face further injustice due to the political impasse. This is heart-breaking for those who believed they would be receiving compensation soon and my thoughts are with them.

    "It is important provision for a compensation scheme is included in any final talks settlement, so when the Assembly gets up and running again, justice for the victims and survivors will not be subject to any further delay."
  • David Ford profile pic 2
    last Tuesday

    Alliance MLA David Ford has said the needs of victims must be resolved urgently, after meeting representatives on legacy issues.

    The former Justice Minister was speaking after attending a meeting of the Victims and Survivors Forum in East Belfast. Issues raised included dealing with the past and a pension for those injured in the Troubles.

    Mr Ford said it was a useful opportunity.

    "It was valuable to hear first-hand and in person the views and opinions of victims on a number of matters and likewise, it was beneficial to put across the Alliance stance on issues such as the victims' pension. It is part of an ongoing engagement the party has with victims and I hope it is as useful for them.

    "Alliance has always raised the topic of victims and survivors in the numerous talks processes over the years, and also put proposals to the DUP and Sinn Fein as part of our consideration for retaking the Justice Ministry last year. We had hoped it would resolve outstanding issues around the legacy of the past, however, they were rejected by those two parties.

    "Victims are far too important to be used as a political football, which is precisely how they continue to be treated by some. The current status quo is not sustainable - instead, we need to comprehensively deal with the past so victims and their loved ones can have their issues resolved."
  • Naomi Long
    last Tuesday

    Alliance Leader Naomi Long has hit out at Arlene Foster, after the Scottish Government published a letter it received from her about its laws relating to equal marriage.

    The correspondence was sent in early September 2015 when Mrs Foster was Finance Minister. It states she was "concerned" about proposals by the Scottish Government to bring in legislation allowing a civil partnership made in another jurisdiction to be recognised in Scottish law as a marriage.

    "In this instance, we can achieve legal certainty by restricting the definition of a 'qualifying civil partnership' so as to exclude civil partnerships which were entered into in Northern Ireland," she added.

    It comes after comments made by Mrs Foster last week, in which she said she had no recollection of sending such a letter.

    "This is another pretty serious memory lapse, given it is on an issue which she claims to be of such importance to her own party," said Mrs Long.

    "It appears Arlene Foster was not across every jot and tittle on this matter, as was the case with RHI. This was not routine correspondence but from a Minister to a Minister in another Government.

    "It is disappointing enough this letter was sent but then to try to deny any knowledge of it only adds to that disappointment. The DUP has always resisted any progress towards full equality for LGBT people and these letters now show that, not content with doing so here, both she and Simon Hamilton sought to interfere in the matter in another jurisdiction as well.

    "The DUP may have a mandate to oppose equal marriage here but they certainly don't in Scotland."
  • Paula Bradshaw20172
    last Tuesday

    Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw has said it is "almost beyond belief" the South Belfast MP has said there is no widespread demand for removal of flags from a mixed housing development in the area.

    The union flags and UVF flags went up in the Global Crescent last week. The developments are part of the Together: Building a United Community (TBUC) programme. DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly said she had visited about 100 homes and found mixed views among residents, saying some were supportive and felt it part of the "tradition" of the local area, with the majority not wanting "a public fuss" around the matter.

    "Emma Little-Pengelly was a Special Adviser for the DUP when the TBUC programme was created. Therefore, she should know first-hand how a shared neighbourhood works - it should be welcoming to all and intimidating to none. To accept flags marking territory is nothing else than being an apologist to those erecting them, particularly as objective surveys show only a small minority of people support the display.

    "I would be surprised if many residents would feel comfortable telling an MP who was publicly endorsed by paramilitaries only a few weeks ago they were intimidated by a flag glorifying one of those same groups. Instead they come to Alliance and others, often confidentially, as we realise people want to see positive community relations and good neighbourliness.

    "In addition, the DUP were one of those to shout loudest when flags were displayed at the Felden mixed housing development in Newtownabbey. Alliance condemned those flags but crucially also condemned the ones in Global Crescent, which the DUP seems to be unable to do.

    "It is almost beyond belief we have an MP essentially saying it is not a problem paramilitaries are marking out territory in this way. When Ms Little-Pengelly won the Westminster seat, she pledged to be an MP for all. It appears she has fallen at the first hurdle."
  • last Monday

    Alliance Leader Naomi Long has said it is vital people do not engage in revenge attacks, after a man was killed following a van being driven into worshippers close to a north London mosque.

    Ten people were also injured in the attack, which is being treated as a terrorist incident, near Finsbury Park mosque. A 48-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

    "My thoughts are with all those who have been left bereaved and injured as a result of this horrific attack," said Mrs Long.

    "It is vital we do not let this develop into a pattern of revenge attacks. The atmosphere allowing and in some cases encouraging attacks on Muslims does nothing but play into the hands of extremists, while at the same time targeting innocent people.

    "Instead of using our diversity to divide us and play into the politics of fear, we need to celebrate it and highlight how it makes us stronger as a community. Only by doing that will we stop the conditions radicalising people and end the cycle of violence."
  • Paula Bradshaw profile pic 2
    last Monday

    Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw has said all parties in the talks should seek to deliver an additional health transformation fund to ensure adequate resources are in place to help GPs and solve the waiting list crisis.

    The South Belfast MLA said even with a transformation process, it would be impossible to tackle the ongoing crisis without additional resources.

    "Our health and social care service should be top priority at the Stormont talks. All parties should state clearly they are behind the direction of travel outlined by experts from Maurice Hayes in 2001 to Rafael Bengoa this year.

    "We should also seek an additional health transformation fund from the UK Government for the remainder of the Assembly term, should the Executive get up and running this month. This fund would free up existing devolved resources to go into immediate health and social care needs, while also enabling investment in the transformation we need over the coming years so the systems are in place to deliver a high quality, universal health service free at point of access for the next generation.

    "In return, we would share our learning with other parts of the UK and Ireland, notably the areas also embarking on integration of health and social care such as greater Manchester. The outcome would be value for public money and a win-win for Northern Ireland.

    "Alliance would prefer to see more resources already allocated to health and education by stopping waste elsewhere, notably in segregated services. However, those savings would be gradual through time, whereas the need for people on waiting lists is immediate.

    "Since that need is immediate, political action should be immediate - an immediate restoration of the Executive, with immediately available funding for day-to-day running of our health service and an immediate specific fund to enable medium-term transformation to ensure this crisis level is never again met."

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