Westminster should ensure Stormont executive can be formed after election, says Alliance leader Naomi Long

The Westminster Government should intervene to ensure a power-sharing executive can be formed after next month’s Stormont elections, even if the DUP refuses to participate, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long has said.

By PA Reporter
Wednesday, 6th April 2022, 3:02 pm

Speaking at an election candidate launch in Belfast, she said it was not sustainable for one party to block the formation of an executive.

Mrs Long said the cost of living and the state of the health service were the main issues on the doorsteps during the election race, and added that the Northern Ireland Protocol had only been mentioned once to Alliance canvassers on doorsteps in the past six months.

Northern Ireland has not had a functioning executive since DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson collapsed the administration in protest at the Brexit protocol earlier this year.

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Alliance Party leader Naomi Long with her party's female election candidates at a launch event in Belfast.

Sir Jeffrey reiterated this week his party will not return to the executive until changes are made to the contentious Irish Sea trading arrangements, casting doubt on the creation of a government following the May 5 Stormont elections.

Current rules mean a powersharing administration can only be formed if the largest unionist and largest nationalist parties agree to enter the joint office of the first and deputy first ministers.

Mrs Long said: “I think the public recognise that it is unsustainable to have a government where any one party can take their ball home and stop play. That isn’t the way to run a government.

“If the DUP don’t want to be part of the government, then it should be possible for them to go into opposition and for those of us who are willing to serve the public in government to get on with the job.

“So, I think the Government now needs to be looking at reform of those institutions to allow those who are unwilling to step back into opposition and for those of us who are willing to form a coalition and move forward.”

Referring to the protocol, the Alliance leader said: “It has been raised with us once in six months on the doors, in east Belfast. I think that puts it in context.

“I think there are those who want to make it the story of the election, who want the entire election to be focused on division and the protocol, because they see it as a rallying call for their party, but I don’t believe it reflects the true concerns of the public or business.

“What they want to know from us is that we will deliver stability.

“That means dealing with the protocol but it doesn’t mean putting the protocol at the top of the chain and stopping everything else until it is resolved.

“We believe we need to get on with government in the meantime.”

Mrs Long said the election next month will be one of the most important Northern Ireland has faced.

She said: “It is an election not just about who will do government, or how we will do government, but whether we will do government, because we know there are serious question marks over whether or not we will be able to reform an executive and actually get down to the work that people are electing us to do.

“Without a doubt the cost-of-living crisis and the health service are the two biggest issues on the doorsteps

“I would say coming a close third are issues around education and the economy, because people recognise that if we are going to have a fairer, more equitable society, if we are going to be able to lift people out of poverty on a permanent basis, then we need to have a vibrant economy, we need to invest in skills and education so that people are able to get high-paying jobs.

“The next thing on people’s minds is the climate challenge that we face and how we are going to both grow our economy and be able to create a sustainable economy.

Politicians should be problem solvers, not problem creators.”