…By Henry George for TDPel Media.
Alliance leader Naomi Long has issued a warning, stating that the institutions of the Stormont Assembly are “fundamentally unstable” and require significant reforms to ensure effective and stable governance.
Long also directed her concerns towards Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris, challenging the prolonged hiatus of fully functioning devolved government in Northern Ireland, which has persisted for 16 months.
Stormont Assembly Remains in a State of Collapse Amid DUP Protest Action
The Assembly continues to experience effective collapse due to protest action taken by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the DUP, has declared that the party will not re-enter devolved government until the UK Government addresses unionist concerns regarding the Brexit settlement.
This latest bout of instability follows a three-year collapse of the Assembly that transpired after the resignation of former Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinness in 2017.
Alliance Leader Criticizes Power Dynamics and Lack of Negotiation in Stormont Institutions
During her testimony to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Naomi Long expressed her disappointment and frustration at the increasing instability of Stormont, despite the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement being in place for 25 years.
She highlighted “fundamental weaknesses and instabilities in the foundations of the institutions.”
Long specifically pointed out that the largest parties, Sinn Fein and the DUP, wield disproportionate control within the Executive, resulting in a power disparity that undermines true collectivity.
Smaller parties must negotiate with the larger parties to achieve their goals, while the larger parties are not compelled to engage in negotiations or compromises.
Need for Reform to Ensure Good and Stable Government
Naomi Long stressed that reforming the Assembly is not a precondition for her party’s return to government.
However, she argued that such reform is necessary to establish good and stable governance.
The longer Northern Ireland remains without devolved government, the more dire the situation becomes.
Currently, Stormont departments are managed by civil servants, who have indicated that they require significant additional funding—amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds—to maintain public services at their current levels.
Urgency for Reform as Implications of Executive’s Failure Escalate
Long emphasized that her party is not making reform a precondition, but she emphasized the need for relatively simple proposals to reform the institutions and enable effective governance.
She questioned how many complex arrangements the Secretary of State would consider to maintain the current hiatus before seriously contemplating straightforward reforms.
She argued that preparatory work for reform can proceed simultaneously with efforts to restore the Executive and Assembly in their current form.
Long warned that the longer the failure to restore the Executive persists, the more serious the implications become.
By November of this year, Northern Ireland could face a crisis that may be irrecoverable for the following three years and deteriorates with each passing month.
Consequently, she urged the consideration of reforms to enable good and stable government, benefiting all parties involved.
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