Northern Ireland

Alliance prioritises Stormont reform at Westminster

The party manifesto says the regional government is often characterised by populism and cronyism

The party leader challenged the UK and Irish governments to show leadership and drive change to the devolved structures in Northern Ireland
Alliance leader Naomi Long at the party's manifesto launch. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY (Liam McBurney/PA)

Alliance has pledged to use any Westminster representation it secures on July 4 to push for reform of the Stormont institutions.

In the its ‘Leading Change’ manifesto, which was launched yesterday in Carrdyduff on the edge of south Belfast, the party advocates new procedures for the appointment of the first and deputy first ministers, weighted majority voting in the assembly, and raising the threshold on which ‘cross-community’ votes can be triggered within the Northern Ireland Executive.

In the medium term, it believes in changes to the Stormont leaders’ titles to ' joint first ministers’ and the abolishment of the system of designation within the assembly.

Alliance, which is defending a single seat in North Down, is running candidates in all 18 constituencies.

Naomi Long’s party argues that the north is being “held back by the failings within our political institutions”.

“Political division has led to poor outcomes on some issues, and complete deadlock on others,” the manifesto states.

“Our system of government has increasingly become marred by a lack of openness and accountability, and is often characterised by populism and cronyism.”

It calls for the British and Irish governments to drive the reform.

Alliance supports north-south and east-west co-operation, a ‘shared future’ that it argues would save resources, and the implementation of measures relating to legacy that reflect those in the Stormont House Agreement. It also backs maximising the Irish government’s Shared Island funding.

Alliance leader Naomi Long, centre, launched the manifesto with the party’s Westminster candidates
The Alliance Party's 18 Westminster candidates. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY/PA

On public finances, the party believes significant investment in public services is required “to mitigate economic and environmental risks”.

The manifesto argues that the UK’s fiscal rules are “too restrictive” and in need of reform.

It believes reform could “unlock significant investment”, including its proposal for a Green New Deal, which would aim to enhance energy security, include a retrofitting programme, and a just transition to net zero, part-funded by tax increases for fossil fuel companies and what it terms terms the “super rich”.

The manifesto dedicates an entire chapter to migration, where it is described as “a normal part of human life”.

Alliance says immigration “must be managed” but supports a “compassionate, fair system”. It says the Conservative administration has used Brexit as a “vehicle to introduce an increasingly punitive, cynical” immigration system.

The manifesto says sectors such as hospitality, agrifood and social care rely on migrant workers and argues that there is scope to use devolved powers to “boost integration and strengthen migrant and asylum seekers’ rights”.

On UK relations with the EU, the party believes in protection of the Good Friday Agreement, preservation of dual market access, and ensuring any changes to the relationship being mutually agreed.

Mrs Long said the manifesto was not standalone but “dovetails with previous Alliance publications”.

She said it focused on issues over which Westminster has direct control or significant influence.

“Alliance positions on issues such as public finances, institutional reform, the environment, migration and international affairs outline the positive, progressive and solution-focused representation Alliance MPs will deliver for everyone in Northern Ireland,” she said.

“Alliance MPs intend to use their influence at Westminster to push for a fairer financial deal for Northern Ireland – that would allow us to improve our public finances, invest in sustainable public services and tackle the cost-of-living and cost-of-doing-business crises still impacting many people across our society.”