Northern Ireland news

British government yet to fulfil NDNA commitments says Justice Minister Naomi Long

Alliance leader and Justice Minister Naomi Long

THE BRITISH government has yet to fulfil commitments set out in the deal that restored Stormont two years ago and has "reneged on its promises" over legacy, the justice minister has said.

Marking the second anniversary of the New Decade New Approach deal that ended three years without devolution, Naomi Long said the agreement "served a purpose" but was "far from perfect".

The collapse of Stormont in January 2017 after more than a decade of power-sharing was triggered by the row over the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Brokered by Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and the then secretary of state Julian Smith, January 2020's NDNA was singed a matter of weeks after a bruising general election for the DUP and Sinn Féin, who saw their vote share slip by 5.4 and 6.7 percentage points, respectively.

Both Mr Coveney and Mr Smith described it as a "fair and balanced package".

However, many of the pledges included in the deal remain unfulfilled, while public confidence in the institutions appears to have changed little.

Major health and social care reform, legislation making Stormont more sustainable, greater transparency measures, and an agreed framework on culture and language are outstanding – though recent days has seen some progress on the latter.

Mrs Long told The Irish News that the agreement fulfilled its main aim of "restoring the executive so the people of Northern Ireland would have locally-elected representatives making decisions for them".

"However, it was far from perfect when signed, ignoring the growing centre ground aspect of our society," she said.

"That lack of foresight continues to give concern, including NDNA’s inability to deal with the types of crises we have seen previously and may again in future."

The Alliance leader singled out the failing of the British government over its plans to introduce a statute of limitations on Troubles prosecutions.

"Primarily, the UK government has let people down with its actions, breaking the legacy aspect of the agreement," she said.

"It has reneged on its promises and decided to push ahead with its amnesty plans, which go against the wishes of every local party and take away the possibility of justice for anyone affected by the Troubles."

The East Belfast MLA also voiced frustration over the lack of language legislation.

"In addition, we have yet to see delivery on the language and culture aspect of NDNA, despite Alliance suggesting a workable approach as far back as 2017," she said.

"In general, the government has taken too long to legislate on the provisions included in the agreement, which were there to increase stability in the face of another crisis. By not delivering that in law, they have continued the chances of any future crisis collapsing power-sharing once again and leaving people without the local representation needed."

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