UUP dismisses 'window dressing' as Stormont parties reaffirm commitment to New Decade, New Approach
THE Ulster Unionists last night refused to put their name to a joint statement issued after the first meeting of the New Decade, New Approach implementation review.
A party spokesperson said it did not support "all elements" of last January's deal and described the statement as "window dressing".
The virtual meeting to mark 12 months since the restoration of the assembly involved Secretary of State Brandon Lewis, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and representatives from the DUP, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance and Ulster Unionists.
The statement issued afterwards said all those who took part "reaffirmed their shared commitment to ensuring the sustainable and effective operation of all the devolved institutions".
A report by think tank Pivotal published last week to coincide with the first anniversary of New Decade, New Approach said Stormont needed to undergo a "culture change" if it was to tackle persistent, long-term problems in health, education and the economy.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald yesterday called on the London and Dublin governments to "honour outstanding commitments" from New Decade, New Approach, including financial pledges and those elements of the Stormont House Agreement dealing with legacy.
She said it was necessary to accept "legitimate disagreement between the parties".
"Challenges remain, but by working together and by working with ministers across the island through the north-south bodies, the executive can continue to deliver better government to the north as we move towards a new, inclusive united Ireland," she said.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said ministers would have made much more progress had it not been for the pandemic.
"We have nonetheless put in place a number of issues that we committed to put in place," she told the BBC.
Ahead of the meeting, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said there had been "no new approach from the DUP and Sinn Féin".
"Far too often they still choose an approach to government that creates chaos from crisis and conflict from challenge," he said.
Alliance leader Naomi Long said that while the executive had made some progress, legacy issues remained unresolved and "more challenging" matters relating to governance had yet to be addressed.
"If we don't tackle them now our capacity to address them will diminish as we approach the next election – we need action across the board now," she said.
Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said the executive remained beset by "dysfunctionality" and that goodwill was "rapidly diminishing".
"It is unclear whether there has been an acceptance by some parties that the culture had to change – regrettably, in far too many instances, it hasn't," he said.