Northern Ireland

Stormont institutions must be reformed to avoid future collapses – Naomi Long

Parties have been reacting to the expected return of the powersharing institutions.

Alliance Leader Naomi Long speaks to the media   on Tuesday, after  the DUP's agreement to return to the NI Assembly - after agreeing to a package of measures put forward by the government.
PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN
Parties react to Stormont return Alliance Leader Naomi Long speaks to the media on Tuesday, after the DUP's agreement to return to the NI Assembly - after agreeing to a package of measures put forward by the government. PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN

Reform of the Stormont institutions is needed to prevent future collapses of devolved government in Northern Ireland, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long has said.

Stormont parties have been reacting to the announcement by DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson that he has secured the backing of his party executive for Government proposals aimed at addressing his concerns over Brexit’s so-called Irish Sea border.

It is expected that this could lead to the return of the powersharing institutions within days once the UK Government publishes a package of measures agreed with the unionist party.

Mrs Long said she sad “bittersweet emotions” over the imminent return of Stormont.



She said: “I am pleased that we are now potentially in a position to see the restoration of the institutions and to be able to actually start doing all of our jobs after a two-year block on that.

“I admit I am still slightly stinging from the fact that we have lost those two years, that the damage that has been done can’t simply be undone.

“There is nothing in the deal that wasn’t available in 2018 under Theresa May or that wouldn’t have been able to be negotiated alongside doing our jobs in the executive.

“That, for me, is the bitter part of it. I simply wish that we had been able to continue to do our jobs and avoid all the harm that has been caused.”

She added: “What is clear is that given the fragility of relationships, not just between the parties, but inside some parties, if we are going to have stable institutions, the Government now needs to engage seriously on the issue of reform of these institutions.

“They simply cannot withstand another collapse.”

Previous to the current Stormont impasse, the institutions were dormant for three years before the Covid pandemic after they were collapsed by Sinn Fein.

UUP Leader Doug Beattie  speaks to the media   on Tuesday, after  the DUP's agreement to return to the NI Assembly - after agreeing to a package of measures put forward by the government.
PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN
Parties react to Stormont return UUP Leader Doug Beattie speaks to the media on Tuesday, after the DUP's agreement to return to the NI Assembly - after agreeing to a package of measures put forward by the government. PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said the Windsor Framework has not been altered by the DUP’s deal with the Government.

“The Windsor Framework will not be changed one sentence, one dot of an ‘i’, not one cross of a ‘t’.

“The Windsor Framework will simply not be changed.

“The Irish Sea border is still going to be there. There will be still EU laws which are going to affect us here in Northern Ireland.

“All of these things are still going to be here. We said that we’re still going to be here. These are the challenges that we as a party have said that we need to be addressing inside a restored Executive.

“So, they haven’t gone away. None of these issues have gone away.

“They’re still there but that doesn’t mean we have to stop trying to challenge them and we can challenge them while at the same time maximising any opportunities which are laid in front of us.”

Mr Beattie said the DUP’s decision to boycott the Northern Ireland institutions was “never going to work”.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the return of the Stormont institutions had been a “long time coming”.

He added: “Years of stagnation have led to serious damage to public services, the position of public sector workers, the health of people waiting unreasonable times for hospital treatment and, ultimately, to public confidence in the political process.

“In spite of that, this is a better day for people across Northern Ireland and I am optimistic that the democratic institutions can be restored in short order.”

TUV leader Jim Allister has been an outspoken critic of the DUP
Stormont Assembly TUV leader Jim Allister has been an outspoken critic of the DUP (Liam McBurney/PA)

TUV leader Jim Allister said the decision by the DUP to accept Government proposals aimed at addressing its concerns over the so-called Irish Sea border “could be game over for the union”.

He said he believed the deal would mean that Northern Ireland “will never again be a full part of the United Kingdom”.

“That, of course, is to our detriment because it puts us on transition out of the United Kingdom through the application of the common laws that apply north and south into an evolving all-Ireland economy. That’s something that no unionist leader should be doing and certainly shouldn’t be dressing it up as something else.”