Alliance leader Naomi Long calls on NI Secretary to do ‘heavy lifting on reform of the institutions’ at Alliance party conference

The Alliance Party held their annual conference today at the Stormont Hotel, with party leader Naomi Long calling on NI Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris to take charge of Stormont reform.

Leader of the Alliance Party, Naomi Long MLA, has called on Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, to ‘step up and do some seriously heavy lifting on reform of the institutions, sooner rather than later’.

She was speaking at Alliance’s annual party conference, which took place today at Stormont Castle in Belfast.

Also present at the conference was Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, who has backed Alliance’s call for reform at Stormont.

Power-sharing was restored in February following a two-year suspension due to the Democratic Unionist Party‘s boycott over post-Brexit trading rules.

Alliance have a total of 17 MLAs currently elected to Stormont they gained nine in the 2022 Assembly election

Naomi Long’s speech also emphasised the point that Alliance is now the third largest party in Northern Ireland, behind Sinn Féin and the DUP.

“You delivered increased numbers of Councillors right across Northern Ireland, confirming our position as the third largest party, and the second largest Council groupings in Lisburn and Castlereagh, and Ards and North Down.

“It isn’t just that over 25% increase in the number of Councillors that bodes well for the future: it’s the new generation of young leaders that entered local government for the first time.”

– Naomi Long MLA, Alliance leader

She paid tribute to Councillor Lewis Boyle – the youngest person to be elected in Northern Ireland – who gained his seat in Ballyclare in the 2023 local election, whilst sitting his A-Levels.

Another young councillor to gain a seat was Amy Mairs – elected in Limavady – at 19 years old.

“And if I’m too young to remember the last time Alliance had a Councillor in the Limavady area back in 1973, you can be sure that the new Alliance Councillor for Limavady, Amy Mairs, certainly won’t remember it, being just 19 years old when she won the seat for Alliance. Again, her talent and ability are what shine through: anyone looking at her work on the Council and across the local Association so far, would easily think she had been there for years.

“In countless places across Northern Ireland, just like Limavady, where we either have never held a council seat or haven’t for a generation, we saw a real breakthrough – whether with the election of Robbie Alexander in Craigavon, Jill Truesdale in the Mournes, or Lee Kane in Ballymoney.”

– Naomi Long MLA, Alliance leader

Commenting on the UK Government and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, she said: “The only thing this morally bankrupt government can do to protect democracy now is to call a General Election. And the sooner the better.”

She insists that Alliance are ready for a General Election. With three candidates already announced – Stephen Farry, Sorcha Eastwood, and Kate Nicholl – they certainly believe they can make even more gains this year.

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