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SDLP and Alliance issued joint statement during Stormont talks

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Alliance leader Naomi Long
Brendan Hughes

THE SDLP and Alliance issued a joint statement yesterday as the parties continued talks to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

In the statement they criticised Sinn Féin and the DUP, and said they would not "facilitate a pantomime".

It was released following a business committee meeting on behalf of the parties' chief whips, the SDLP's Colin McGrath and Alliance's Stewart Dickson.

They said: "Attempts have been made this morning to influence the sitting of the assembly today in a way which would negatively affect the ongoing talks process.

"We have given the DUP and Sinn Féin clear instruction that we will delay a decision on today's sitting until 1pm and that in that time they should return to the negotiating table and come to a resolution.

"There is time to restore power-sharing. We will not facilitate a pantomime here today."

It is uncommon for the north's parties to release joint statements, and could be seen as a sign of perhaps closer co-operation in future.

The last time the SDLP issued a joint statement was with the UUP last year, when the parties were acting as an assembly opposition to the Stormont executive led by the DUP and Sinn Féin.

At the height of their closer discussions, Colum Eastwood in October became the first SDLP leader to address a UUP conference.

In his speech at the same party conference, then UUP leader Mike Nesbitt argued: "Maybe next time we can persuade people if you vote Mike, you get Colum. If you vote Colum, you get Mike."

But in March's snap Stormont election, while both the SDLP and Alliance held all their seats with 12 and eight respectively, the UUP was reduced to the fourth largest party in the assembly with 10.

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