Belfast Telegraph

Alliance has no mandate to be in talks, says Nesbitt

By Noel McAdam

The Alliance Party should be barred from talks to agree a Programme for Government, the Ulster Unionists have claimed.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said his rivals had secured eight seats - three fewer than the number needed for a place on the Executive now that departments are being cut from 12 to nine.

Alliance said it should be included in the talks because it had two ministers in the previous Assembly - David Ford at Justice and Stephen Farry at Employment and Learning.

MLA Chris Lyttle added: "It would be unwise for the other Executive parties not to hear from two of the most able and experienced ministers. We have a contribution to make."

The party also appeared better acquainted with arrangements for the week ahead than the Ulster Unionists.

The UUP admitted being "outside the loop" since the withdrawal of sole minister Danny Kennedy from the Executive in the autumn.

In the end Mr Nesbitt rang Civil Service head Dr Malcolm McKibben to ask what meetings were scheduled for the forthcoming week.

"Nobody has told me what the plan is," said Mr Nesbitt.

"We published nine policy papers in the run-up to the election and we want to see as much of that in the Programme for Government as possible.

"My judgment on going back (to the Executive) will depend on whether we are seeing joined-up government."

He revealed he had been in contact with PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton to arrange a briefing on paramilitary groups.

Mr Nesbitt added that he was not waiting for a report from the independent panel set up to monitor the issue before making a decision on forming an official Opposition.

He said the "button is ready to be pressed" to summon a meeting of the UUP executive, which endorsed the withdrawal strategy in the aftermath of IRA members being involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan last summer.

Belfast Telegraph


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