Alliance East Antrim MLA, Stewart Dickson, has expressed hopes that the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley MP, will be able to restore devolution with new All Party Talks.
Northern Ireland has been without a functioning Assembly since January last year, when revelations of the botched Renewable Heating Incentive scheme led to the collapse of the Executive. Since then talks have been taking place however little progress has been seen.
The new Secretary of State has announced plans for All Party Talks, bringing other parties to the table.
Speaking on Good Morning Ulster, Mr Dickson explained that All Party Talks would allow other parties to offer their views and comments on the situation to the Secretary of State and the two largest parties face to face instead of “letting us slip notes under the door”.
Mr Dickson continued: “There will have to be opportunity for bilateral meetings between the parties, and there is a recognition that there are two parties… that have a lot to discuss, but then they’ve had a year to discuss it.”
“From an Alliance Party perspective, clearly, we welcome where we’re at today in trying to move things forward and I think Karen Bradley…will bring a fresh pair of eyes and indeed some fresh thoughts”.
“But we have been calling for nearly a year now, for the government to appoint an independent chairperson to help the parties take this forward.”
When asked if the talks would fail without an independent chairperson, Mr Dickson had this to say, “Talking is never doomed to failure, talking is about trying to get to an end point… and ultimately getting devolution back up and running here in Northern Ireland.”
He concluded by saying: “this time a year ago, James Brokenshire was able to use the draft budget that had been left behind by the old Executive… if we move forward without a solution we will be moving forward with a Tory government producing the budget for Northern Ireland.”
The full segment is available on the BBC’s website through the link below:
Click here to listen