Northern Ireland

Stormont must be reformed so no single party can collapse institutions – Naomi Long

The Alliance Party leader made her comments during a failed attempt by MLAs to elect a speaker.

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long
Stormont Assembly Alliance Party leader Naomi Long (Liam McBurney/PA)

Stormont must be reformed so no single party can collapse the powersharing institutions in the future, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long has said.

Mrs Long said the continued suspension of the Assembly was hindering public sector reform as she spoke during a failed attempt by MLAs to elect a Stormont speaker on Wednesday.

She said: “While the focus today is rightly on the boycott of the DUP, I say this to other party leaders – there is no point coming to this chamber bemoaning the bind in which we find ourselves time and time again, whilst simultaneously defending and refusing to address the structural weaknesses that enable it.



Alliance party leader Naomi Long said it was those ‘who live in this community who suffer as a result of repeated collapses’
Alliance party leader Naomi Long Alliance party leader Naomi Long said it was those ‘who live in this community who suffer as a result of repeated collapses’ (Liam McBurney/PA)

“The only conceivable reason any party would want to retain the power to collapse these institutions is if they intend to use it or the threat of it to subvert normal democratic process.

“I want the institutions restored as soon as possible, but more, I want them reformed so that no single party can ever again hold these institutions and, with them the best interests and future of our people, to ransom.

“Because it is those who live in this community who suffer as a result of repeated collapses. Our inability to sustain government has impeded public sector reform.”

The Alliance leader said the restoration of the institutions would give MLAs additional resources to resolve pay issues.

“For once, as an executive, we could be arguing on the same side of the table for the people who elected us, but instead we are locked out of those opportunities,” Ms Long added.

The recalled Assembly session took place a day before public sector workers across Northern Ireland were due to go on strike.

Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler said the DUP would be to blame for the impact of the strikes.

Deputy leader of the UUP Robbie Butler said the DUP would be to blame for the impact of the strikes
Deputy leader of the UUP Robbie Butler Deputy leader of the UUP Robbie Butler said the DUP would be to blame for the impact of the strikes (Liam McBurney/PA)

He said: “The blame for the impact of the strikes – and I will not mince my words today as I may not get a chance to speak in this chamber again – the blame lies squarely with the DUP.

“I don’t think the blame lies squarely with every member, less so with the MLAs here.

“If I was a betting man, I would wager that most of the people to my right haven’t even seen the deal that is on offer (from the UK Government).

“In my opinion, the blockage lies with a small number of DUP MPs and Lords who are far removed from the impact on public services and lives here in Northern Ireland.”

The SDLP’s Matthew O’Toole told the Assembly the political institutions only mattered ‘to the extent that they serve the public’
Deputy leader of the UUP Robbie Butler, front The SDLP’s Matthew O’Toole told the Assembly the political institutions only mattered ‘to the extent that they serve the public’ (Liam McBurney/PA)

The SDLP’s Matthew O’Toole told the Assembly public sector workers were entitled to a pay rise.

He said: “These are real public servants, unlike some in this chamber and elsewhere who stand for election, they take seriously the trust that is placed in them and the service they perform.

“These are the nurses and health professionals who save lives and provide the care we need at some point in our lives and all of us will need in the future.”

He added: “This chamber and these institutions only matter to the extent that they serve the public. They aren’t serving anyone at the minute other than the narrow self-interest and self-obsession of a few hardline, usually online voices.”

TUV leader Jim Allister there was ‘a studious avoidance of asking the question why these institutions have failed’
Stormont Assembly TUV leader Jim Allister there was ‘a studious avoidance of asking the question why these institutions have failed’ (Liam McBurney/PA)

TUV leader Jim Allister said the recall of the Assembly, which was instigated by Sinn Fein “reeks of insincerity”.

He said: “The pretence is that the motivation is to get this place, these institutions, up and running again.

“Yet there is a studious avoidance of asking the question why these institutions have failed.”

He added: “They have failed fundamentally and unavoidably because of the (Northern Ireland) Protocol.

“Upsetting and dismantling the constitutional equilibrium of the Belfast Agreement that some claim to support.”