SDLP submit a motion to recall the Assembly over the ‘ecological crisis’ in Lough Neagh

The SDLP's leader at Stormont, Matthew O'Toole, has submitted a motion to recall the Assembly in a bid to address the 'crisis' in Lough Neagh.

The Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP) have today submitted a motion to recall the Northern Ireland Assembly over the ‘ecological crisis’ in Lough Neagh.

Blue-green algae now covers large parts of Lough Neagh – which supplies 40% of Northern Ireland’s drinking water.

The motion which was submitted by the SDLP’s leader in the Assembly, Matthew O’Toole, requires 30 signatures in order to bring MLAs back to Stormont.

If it reaches the 30 signatures, the assembly will first meet to elect a Speaker and Deputy Speaker, then nominate a First Minister and deputy First Minister, and finally to debate the motion – but only if they can elect a Speaker first.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have been boycotting Stormont over issues with the Windsor Framework agreement. The last time the Assembly was recalled, it failed to elect a Speaker.

The DUP MP for Upper Bann, Carla Lockhart, spoke to the BBC:

“We’ve seen these stunts before, they don’t work, they haven’t worked”

“We want to get a resolution, we want the Government to move on the issues that we have outlined to them in relation to the protocol and the Windsor Framework. We are making progress and will continue to do that. Stunts like this don’t help at all.”

“If Stormont was recalled in the morning and there was a debate in the chamber, it wouldn’t necessarily change anything. What we need is a co-ordinated approach right across each of the departments.”

The UUP’s spokesperson for the environment, Tom Elliot MLA, has called on Jayne Brady (Head of Civil Service) to hold an interdepartmental, cross-agency summit to address the Lough Neagh algae crisis.

The SDLP’s motion in full states:

“That this Assembly declares an ecological crisis in Lough Neagh; acknowledges the complex characteristics of biodiversity and ecological breakdown on the lough which includes high concentrations of phosphates and nitrates from agricultural runoff, the durability of the waste water infrastructure, the impact of invasive species and the catalyst of higher temperatures caused by the climate crisis; accepts the role successive Executives have played in failing to mitigate this crisis; resolves to implement a short term mitigation plan to address the effects of the crisis; further resolves to implement a long term recovery plan to comprehensively address the challenges facing Lough Neagh across Executive Departments and; calls on Ministers to work collectively to establish an independent Environment Protection Agency with robust enforcement powers to address the crisis on Britain and Ireland’s largest freshwater lake.”

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