Northern Ireland news

Shelve assembly and stop MLAs' pay if Stormont talks fail: Naomi Long

Naomi Long said the next talks process should have an independent chair and be time limited. Picture by Mal McCann

THE ASSEMBLY should be shelved indefinitely and MLAs' pay cut completely if Stormont's parties fail to reach agreement at the next attempt, Naomi Long has said.

More than a year after the last round of negotiations collapsed when a deal was thought to be in reach, the Alliance leader said Secretary of State Karen Bradley should convene another round of all-party talks at the earliest opportunity.

She said the process should have an independent chair and be time limited.

Mrs Long said that since the talks failed in February last year there had been "no energy expended" on trying to restore devolution and that the DUP was "calling the shots", preventing the secretary of state from convening talks.

She said that in the meantime the tone of debate and trust between parties had deteriorated.

However, she declined to say which party or parties was impeding progress.

"Different parties at different times have contributed to the negative dynamics – and it often switches in the space of a meeting," she said.

The East Belfast MLA said parties who refused to engage properly in the negotiating process should have their pay cut.

She also argues that if the next talks process fails, then the assembly should be suspended and MLAs' salaries stopped.

"If parties are genuinely saying they cannot reconcile these differences, that they cannot get the assembly back up and running, then none of us have a job here any longer and we've got to acknowledge that and we've got to move on," she told The Irish News.

"We can't continue to be paid to sit in an assembly that doesn't exist indefinitely with no progress, with no effort to make progress and no prospect of restoration."

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