Political news

Alliance paper proposes 'pathway to power-sharing'

Alliance leader Naomi Long said the breakdown in negotiations had created 'fairly toxic political relationships'. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

ALLIANCE has tabled a series of proposals it believes would provide a “positive pathway” back to devolution.

Speaking ahead of the party's annual conference this weekend, leader Naomi Long said the DUP and Sinn Féin would ultimately have to return to negotiations and that Alliance's ‘Next Steps Forward' paper could “re-inject momentum” into the political process.

The paper includes proposals for Westminster to legislate on the contentious issues of same-sex marriage, legacy and an Irish language act.

Alliance also believes MPs could push through reform of the petition of concern – the Stormont assembly veto that was often used to block legislative changes.

Mrs Long told The Irish News that the breakdown of talks after 14 months had created “fairly toxic political relationships”.

“If we were fortunate enough to get power-sharing back, do we really want the first job for a fragile, newly-restored assembly to be the toughest stuff – the hard things that have been blocking it all along?” she said.

“Do we want to put that sort of pressure on our vulnerable institutions or would it be better if same-sex marriage and the Irish language act were dealt with off-line at Westminster?”

The Alliance leader said no-one else had a plan on how to bring the parties together with the aim of restoring devolution.

She added that she had already shared her party's proposals privately with DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill.

Elsewhere, the Alliance paper advocates an independent facilitator for future multi-party talks, the convening of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, and the restoration of Stormont's departmental scrutiny committees.

Mrs Long has also called for the re-establishment of the Policing Board and assembly votes on legislation that was at an advanced stage before the institutions collapsed last year.

“Such a mechanism would allow the assembly to take on its legislative role and prevent ongoing stagnation without absorbing significant parliamentary time at Westminster, as they would have been drafted, scrutinised and debated at the assembly,” the East Belfast MLA said.

Alliance also proposes the formation of a cross-party Brexit committee to ensure “Northern Ireland's voice is heard as negotiations on the UK's exit from the EU progresses”.

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