Belfast Telegraph

Alliance MLAs will not attend Assembly recall, as Long calls move a 'cynical political stunt'

Alliance leader Naomi Long
Alliance leader Naomi Long
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

Alliance leader Naomi Long has confirmed her party will not attend Monday's recall of the Assembly, calling it a "cynical political stunt".

The Assembly was recalled after a petition was signed by 31 MLAs to discuss a motion to put the issue of abortion back in the hands of local politicians.

Liberalisation of abortion and the introduction of same-sex marriage will come into force in Northern Ireland if the Stormont Assembly is not restored by October 22.

A ministerial Executive will only be formed once the DUP and Sinn Fein agree to re-enter into a coalition.

Naomi Long MEP said: “Alliance’s MLAs have discussed this with colleagues and have decided to not attend Monday’s sitting of the Assembly.

"It is a cynical political stunt, which has no prospect of leading to the formation of an Executive, but it will increase acrimony between parties and bring the chamber further into disrepute, making an actual restoration more difficult."

“The intention of this recall is not to block abortion law and equal marriage, but to create the illusion the DUP are trying to do so."

The Alliance leader labelled the recall a "charade", adding that it is not appropriate to treat "a serious issue with profound consequences" in such a "cynical manner".

"It has already caused genuine fear and anxiety for those who believe a meeting of the Assembly will have any effect, including LGBT couples who have arranged marriages for next year," Mrs Long said.

“In addition, raising the expectations of the wider community that a sustainable Assembly can be formed without any intensive negotiations, compromise from the two largest parties, or reform of the institutions to make them fit for purpose is fundamentally dishonest.

"We will not be party to such a lie."

Responding to Mrs Long's comments, DUP Assembly chief whip Gordon Lyons said: “On 13th October Alliance MLAs joined others outside Stormont holding placards to protest about the continued absence of devolution.

"Eight days later the same Alliance MLAs will refuse to walk into the Assembly chamber and debate legislation impacting upon unborn children that has been imposed on Northern Ireland without consultation."

Mr Lyons said Mrs Long had decided to "echo Michelle O'Neill's disregard for devolution".

"Both have chosen to dismiss the genuine motivations of those who have driven this initiative as being engaged in stunt politics. 

"Both also have chosen to deliberately misrepresent the Assembly recall as being a DUP initiative. Instead it is a campaign taken forward by Baroness Nuala O’Loan and the Both Lives Matter campaign.

"When they dismiss these efforts they are dismissing many thousands of people who have given their support to it.

"The people of Northern Ireland deserve better and it is important they see which MLAs are prepared to deliver better.”

Sinn Fein dismissed the recall as a "publicity stunt" and will not be attending.

 

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan confirmed that he will be attending and said he understood other party MLAs could also be present.

His party leader Colum Eastwood criticised the recall but has yet to decide if his party, which is "pro-life", will attend. But he said the SDLP will not "play to the DUP's tune".

TUV leader Jim Allister and Ulster Unionists Robin Swann, Robbie Butler and Roy Beggs were among those to sign the recall petition.

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