A departing MLA has stated that the Alliance Party is “not definite” about staying in government after the election, as she hit out at the political status quo in general across the Province.
Anna Lo was speaking after she made her last appearance on the floor of the Assembly on Tuesday. She is among the MLAs not seeking re-election in May.
The party said when she won the South Belfast seat in 2007, it made her the first ethnic Chinese politician ever elected to a European legislature.
Asked if she feels politics is better or worse than when she was first voted in to office, she said: “I don’t think it’s got much better to be very honest... I think the fault lies in the Executive. The two major parties a lot of the time are working for their own section of the community. For a lot of the time, they’re not thinking of the common good.”
Asked if the Alliance should therefore leave the Executive – as the UUP had done in 2015 – when a new Assembly is formed after the May election, she said: “We’re considering. We’re not saying we will not go into government – but it’s an option...
“We’re not definite on this either way. We’re going to have discussions internally. We’re going to consult our members.”
She angered some unionists by declaring herself “anti-colonial” and voicing support for a united Ireland in 2014.
Ms Lo (whose election slogan was ‘Aim high, Vote Lo’) said: “I’m very sorry if I’ve offended anybody. It certainly wasn’t my intention.”
However she added the idea of a united Ireland seems “natural” to her, and likened it to the reunification of China and Hong Kong – adding that since that took place “the sky hasn’t fallen down”.
She has lived in Northern Ireland since 1974, and said that was her view as “someone from outside looking in, with a wider perspective”.
Nonetheless she said “I understand the unionist emotions and the tie to the rest of the UK”.
Ms Lo said that although she is leaving politics, she will remain on the edge of public life, taking up roles with Ulster Wildlife, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, and sitting on the advisory board of the Chinese Welfare Association (which she was a director of for 10 years before entering the Assembly).
Though she will take part in committee work for the remainder of the week, Tuesday was her last day on the floor of the Assembly.
She asked the DUP’s Lord Morrow about what he is doing to ensure that voluntary groups can thrive in spite of government cutbacks.
He said with an election now looming and a new Executive to be formed, “this will be strictly a matter for the new minister”.
He wished her well, adding: “I suppose, some time, we might even say that this place will not be the same without her. So, all the best to you, Ms Lo.”