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Newry and Armagh's five MLA's have taken their seats at the NI Assembly at Stormont after a three year period of suspension.

The local representatives sat at Parliament Buildings on Saturday for the first time since Martin McGuinness suspended the Assembly 9 January 2017.

In the first week of their 'new term' Newry.ie asked each of our local representatives about their hopes and ambitions.

William Irwin, Cathal Boylan, Justin McNulty, Conor Murphy and newly co-opted Liz Kimmins attended the renewed assembly on Saturday past. Ms Kimmins replaced party colleague Megan Fearon who stepped down as an MLA in December 2019. Camlough man Conor Murphy was appointed Minister of Finance at Saturday's first sitting.

Great Responsibility

Speaking after his appointment Mr Murphy said “This has been long and oftentimes frustrating process, but we have arrived at a situation where significant progress has been made in respect of the delivery of citizens rights - including a wide-ranging Irish Language Act - legacy issues, reform of the political institutions, strategies to tackle poverty and sectarianism, wide-ranging reforms to public services, as well as major infrastructural investment. The role of Finance Minister is one of great responsibility and I am privileged to undertake this role. How public finances are managed impacts on the lives of all our citizens – from the delivery of public services to the creation of jobs.

"I am determined to be forward looking and will endeavour to ensure that the resources we have are used to best possible effect. As we face into the great uncertainties of Brexit, it is imperative that we redouble our efforts to develop and rebuild a modern, competitive and sustainable economy where we open doors to trade, investment, tourism and jobs.We need decent jobs, that value workers and protect their rights. We need to improve our competitiveness through investing in our public services and infrastructure”

The Newry and Armagh MLA's returning to Stormont.
The Newry and Armagh MLA's returning to Stormont.

Maintaining and expanding our natural links with the rest of the United Kingdom

Commenting on the restoration of the devolved administration William Irwin said, “The overwhelming message from the public has obviously been for the Assembly to return to work. That has now happened and this will allow a lot of important business to be undertaken that has sadly been mothballed due to Sinn Féin’s ridiculous boycott.”

He added, “Sinn Féin had many red lines and demands however it is important to state that none of them were met and they suffered at the recent Westminster elections as a result of their intransigence. They should be focusing now on dealing with the issues in our public services and addressing the problems that their 3 year boycott has caused.”

He concluded, “I will be back at Stormont this week exercising the mandate that people gave me and maintaining and expanding our natural links with the rest of the United Kingdom. There are of course issues of importance to me and my Party, such as the draconian abortion legislation, that we will be working to try and reverse as I believe every human being has the basic right to life. I am prepared for the challenges ahead.”

Work together to solve the problems facing this society

Cathal Boylan spoke of how this was a defining moment for politics “This is a defining moment for politics here. Our mission must be to deliver on health, education and secure jobs for everyone across the whole community. Our politics must embrace civic society - trade unions, voluntary/community sector, business, academia, farmers, business, churches, students - all must have a permanent place and space to advise, input and hold this Assembly and Executive to account. We must work together to solve the problems facing this society”.

Concluding he said that he and his colleagues would continue to deliver Irish reunification. “We will also continue to work tirelessly to deliver Irish reunification in the time ahead, to ensure that a referendum on Irish unity is delivered and that planning for Irish unity is advanced."

Open, transparent and accountable

Justin McNulty said, ‘Stormont is back up and running and it’s important we all get back to the work we’ve been elected to do.  There are many issues in Ministerial in-trays across every Department and no time should be wasted in dealing with those issues.

’‘We are all too aware of the issues crippling our Health and Education systems and there are many issues in the Departments of Infrastructure, Agriculture and Communities as well.  The deal, which has been endorsed by all five main parties promises bold and courageous political leadership across Government and it’s imperative that all parties step up to the plate.

’‘What is also crucially important is a sea-change in the way things are done.  There can be no more side deals or carve-ups.  This Executive must be open, transparent and accountable.  During the life of the last Assembly the SDLP and others formed an opposition, and whilst it was only operating a short time I believe it was effective in shining a light into the dark corners of Government here.  Just because we are part of the all-party executive doesn’t mean the SDLP will not be holding this Executive to account.

‘We have always acted in the public interest and have been open and honest with the public. That’s what we also expect of others so we will be a critical friend at the Executive table in the months ahead."

Absolutely committed to making genuine power-sharing work

New MLA Liz Kimmins spoke of the challenges ”There is no doubt there are serious challenges ahead for all of us, not least in combating the impacts of Tory austerity and the effects of Brexit, but Sinn Féin is about delivery and we are absolutely committed to making genuine power-sharing work. I look forward to the challenges ahead and am committed to serving all the people of Newry and Armagh”

Liz concluded “Resistance to equality caused the Executive to fall. A refusal to embrace citizens identity and rights left people frustrated, angered and divided.This cannot be repeated. It is the role of every Sinn Féin representative to work for the speedy implementation of what has been agreed and to work to move society forward. We must give people hope and our young people opportunity.I intend to fully play my part in achieving this”.

 

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