SDLP take Stormont seats and walk-out in protest
The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MLA and his party took their seats in the Stormont Assembly before walking out in protest this afternoon.
He led party members into the chamber to confirm with the current Speaker that the DUP and Sinn Féin “have failed to reach an agreement to restore an Executive and return power to local people”.
However, he said he would not facilitate a ‘shadow Assembly’ in breach of the balanced institutions of the agreement.
He accused unionists of fundamentally undermining power sharing and warping the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement by unilaterally recalling Stormont on Monday.
He said: “People like John Hume, Seamus Mallon and others spilled their sweat to forge institutions that brought our people closer together.
“The peace that they built included a local Executive, where people representing the two major traditions on this island would be compelled to set aside their differences and work in our substantial common interest.
“It included North-South institutions to give voice to the desire of Irish nationalism for closer integration across this island. It was never supposed to be an Assembly alone, which would have suited hard-liners who resist cooperation.
“When the Assembly is called to sit, SDLP MLAs will return to work. But we will not facilitate any attempt to undermine the delicate balance of institutions which allow all sections of our community to pursue their ambitions.
“We will take our seats this afternoon to confirm with the Assembly Speaker that the DUP and Sinn Féin have again failed to reach an honourable compromise that would see the restoration of government in Northern Ireland. “Those parties must account for their failure to people waiting for a hospital appointment, parents waiting for support for children with special educational needs and the most vulnerable who are facing the bedroom tax and an end to welfare mitigations next year.
“The SDLP has made proposals aimed at bridging the gaps and restoring an Executive - reform or suspending the Petition of Concern to allow issues like these to be decided on my an Assembly free from the threat of veto. Other parties should join us and restore power sharing so that we can act in the best interests of those who elected us.”