Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster: Everyone taking part knows importance of these proceedings

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster

By Arlene Foster

There was a great deal of focus during the last week that we have marked over 1,000 days since the collapse of devolution.

Genuine efforts have been made during that time to see the Executive and Assembly working again. I share the frustration and anger of everyone in Northern Ireland that MLAs are not doing the full job we were elected by the public to fulfil.

The Assembly will meet today, however. I believe it is significant that it was not a party political initiative which gathered the signatures to call this meeting.

The Both Lives Matter campaign will bring together parties specifically to discuss the hugely important issue of abortion. Theirs is a campaign driven by people from all backgrounds and political viewpoints. It is testimony of just how people want to see MLAs back in the Assembly chamber debating the issues and taking decisions.

The grassroots campaign that brought about this sitting of the Assembly only adds to its significance. It is a full meeting of the Assembly that will take place, with full powers to take decisions that can move Northern Ireland forward. The only obstacle that will prevent an Executive being formed will be any decision by MLAs not to attend.

Should it not prove possible to form an Executive, the Assembly's sitting can be a signpost towards progress rather than any stumbling block. I believe all those participating will recognise the importance and sensitivity of the issue being debated and will engage in all proceedings genuinely and respectfully.

There are many, many areas in which the public have been punished through a refusal to restore the Executive and take decisions on the issues that matter. It is simply wrong to dismiss any initiative that can bring MLAs back into the Assembly chamber.

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I hope that whatever the outcome of proceedings, everyone will be able to look upon the sitting as a demonstration of what is possible with genuine effort and determination. The public deserve better than the last 1,000 days and we must strive to deliver that for everyone.

  • Arlene Foster MLA is leader of the DUP

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