Alliance Leader, Lord Alderdice, commenting on today’s Strand 2 paper from the British and Irish Governments, has called for the parties to address the questions raised.
Speaking from Lancaster House, Lord Alderdice said:
“Last week, the parties batted the ball to the two Governments. Today the Governments just batted the ball back.
“This paper is just a series of questions to focus the negotiations, but already some parties are trying to bat the ball back to the Governments again.
“I would appeal to colleagues in the Talks to stop playing this game of pingpong and start giving answers to the questions.
“Some parties will find the questions more difficult to answer than others. But avoiding the questions, and passing the buck, is an irresponsible waste of negotiating time.”
Carrickfergus Alliance Councillor Stewart Dickson has welcomed Health Minister Tony Worthington’s decision to provide cold weather payments to Northern Ireland’s pensioners.
Alderman Dickson, who is the new health spokesperson for the Alliance Party, said the payments would be appreciated by Northern Ireland’s pensioners – particularly after last weekend’s treacherous weather conditions.
Alderman Dickson said: “I would like to commend the Minister for providing these winter payments. Many pensioners faced a bleak Christmas as a result of the bad weather.
“The necessary conditions for payments were triggered by recent storms and bad weather. However, the Department of Health and Social Services does not take into account higher domestic fuel costs in Northern Ireland.
“I understand that funding for solid fuel in glass fronted fires has not been provided and despite recent reductions in electrical prices – costs are still very high. And for most domestic customers – gas is not yet a reality.
“If the bad weather continues, I would hope that the Government would take all the matters that I have listed into account. If the bad weather continues – it’s essential that the Government look’s after Northern Ireland’s pensioners.”
The future of waste disposal in Larne and Carrickfergus should be addressed by the Department of the Environment within the next few weeks, Alliance Councillor John Campbell has claimed.
Councillor Campbell, who congratulated Larne Borough Council’s Mr. Maurice Crum for his efforts in highlighting the problem, said that decisions – including those from council officers – should be made for future planning.
Councillor Campbell said: “The issue of waste disposal is a matter of grave importance for the people of Larne and Carrickfergus. That’s why the matter should be addressed immediately.
“We need to have some serious technical thinking from the DoE, Larne and Carrickfergus borough council and from the relevant agencies involved with the waste disposal industry.
“I think we need to have an alternative to the land fill site method of waste disposal and I also believe that we should be looking at new systems of dumping. This has been a continuing problem and we must find a solution.
“I also understand that the tipping of the council’s bin lorry provides the biggest cost – apart from council wages – to the council. The issue of the environment is vitally important and I firmly believe that it must be addressed before the year 2000.”
Alliance Party Deputy Leader Seamus Close has reacted to the announcement by the Secretary of State of an extension to the inquiry into operational procedures at the Maze Prison.
Seamus Close said :
“The Secretary of State has decided to extend the remit of one of her Civil Servants in his investigation into the operational procedures of the Maze Prison. The problem with this approach is that the political decisions governing the running of the prison also need to be looked at. It is these decisions which, when implemented by Civil Servants, have led to the problems in the prison. Civil Servants will not critise the decisions of their political masters. Today’s announcement fails to give the confidence that is needed in such an inquiry. To simply extend the brief given to a civil servant will satisfy no-one”.