Alliance Party can herald end of binary system at Stormont, says Long

Alliance Party can herald end of binary system at Stormont, says Long
She said her party’s rivals are ‘addicted to crisis and conflict’.

A big result for the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland’s Assembly election can herald the end of a political system based on binary division, leader Naomi Long has said.

Addressing her party conference in Belfast, Mrs Long denounced rivals at Stormont whom she claimed were “addicted to crisis and conflict”.

The East Belfast MLA, who serves as Justice Minister, stressed the need for major changes to powersharing structures that are currently based on a community designation system that effectively hands blocs of unionists or nationalists a veto.

People have had enough of the constant dramas and the political soap operas

Naomi Long

Mrs Long said her cross-community party hopes to build on recent strong electoral showings to secure an Assembly team big enough to deliver change.

“May’s election won’t just determine how our politics works for the next five years – it will determine if our politics works,” the party leader told delegates at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

“This May, together we can deliver a bigger Alliance team. A team that will not just deliver more and better, one that ensures that together, we can secure reform of the Assembly, move away from binary politics that seeks to divide people and ensure no one party can hold progress to ransom.”

The conference was held amid the backdrop of the latest powersharing crisis at Stormont.

The Executive imploded last month when the DUP withdrew First Minister Paul Givan from the administration as part of its campaign of protest against Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

The move automatically ousted Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill from office, and removed the Executive’s ability to take any significant decisions.

Other ministers, such as Mrs Long, remain in post but are constrained in their ability to shape major policies.

Mrs Long said Northern Ireland needs a working Executive, especially at the current time (PA)
Mrs Long said Northern Ireland needs a working Executive, especially at the current time (PA)

There remains uncertainty whether a new administration can be formed on the other side of the May 5 election, with the DUP making clear it cannot be business as usual until Brexit barriers on Irish Sea trade are removed.

Mrs Long hit out at the DUP’s actions in a speech that also criticised Sinn Fein’s record in the Assembly.

“We meet at a time when, yet again, our institutions are beset by instability,” she said.

“The absence of a First Minister, while no longer able to cause the collapse of the Assembly has deprived us of that working Executive, at a time when many key decisions still depend on it.

“We’re emerging from a pandemic, fighting a battle against climate change, facing a cost of living crisis, and there’s a war on our doorstep in eastern Europe.

“This is not the time to walk away from government, this is time to lead in government.

“With so much important work to do, it is hard to fathom how we are again without an Executive only two years after restoration.

She said her party can ‘deliver the transformation… our people so desperately need’ (PA)
She said her party can ‘deliver the transformation… our people so desperately need’ (PA)

“It seems that some politicians are addicted to crisis and conflict, and simply not up to the job of actually governing.

“People have had enough of the constant dramas and the political soap operas. They want politicians who don’t just identify more problems – or worse still, add to them – but who are focused on finding solutions, on making things better.

“But it doesn’t have to be like this. Yes, we know there are huge challenges ahead – from the climate emergency to the spiralling cost of living – but together, we can face them.”

Mrs Long concluded her speech with a rallying call to the party faithful.

“I believe we have the people, the policies and the passion needed to build a truly progressive, inclusive and prosperous future for all of our people – to deliver the transformation our public services, our politics, our people so desperately need,” she said.

“And on May 5, together, we can. And we will.”

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