29/06/2018

Other News In Brief

Long Urges UK Govt To Step Up Efforts To Restore Powersharing

Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has called upon the UK Government to increase its efforts for restoring powersharing at Stormont.

Ms Long made the call on the anniversary of the talks deadline, when then Secretary of State James Brokenshire set the deadline of June 29, 2017 to restore the Executive following the General Election earlier that month.

The Alliance Leader said: "We are now one year to the day since the Secretary of State set the deadline to appoint a new Executive following the election. At that point it was already over six months since the collapse of the institutions.

"We have been without any Government for the past 18 months at a crucial point, as Brexit negotiations continue and other challenges remain. But it now appears the restoration of devolution has been parked until Brexit is resolved.

"In the interim, we are in a situation of having laws incompatible with human rights law and a civil service unable to take decisions on significant issues. Meanwhile, a range of other key reforms in health, education and other public services are unable to happen."

Ms Long continued, saying the situation is "increasingly frustrating and completely unsustainable".

"There appears to have been no efforts made, bar yesterday's announcement of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, to reengage parties or address impediments to devolution through Westminster since the collapse of negotiations," she said.
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"Alliance's Next Steps Forward document provides constructive suggestions to re-establish devolution but aside from that initiative, we are no further on with the overall process. Local parties have primary responsibility for the collapse but the Secretary of State has a duty to drive the process and ensure Northern Ireland is effectively governed. We need to take urgent steps to appoint an independent facilitator and allow them the next few weeks to engage with parties ahead of all-party talks and a restoration in the autumn.

"Alliance has been constructive rather than critical throughout this period but we need to see a serious upswing in the Government's intensity and strategy or else the damage to public services, the economy and individuals will get worse."

Two Men Arrested Following East Belfast Incident Released

Two men aged 25 and 29 who were arrested following an incident in east Belfast on Thursday have been released on bail.

The suspects were detained following reports of a man being assaulted in the early hours of the morning by another man in the Beersbridge Road area.

Police said the victim sustained cuts and bruising to his head and body, and has been left badly shaken by the ordeal.

Both suspects have been released on police bail pending further enquiries.

Court Rules Letting Agents Fees Are Illegal

A court has ruled that letting fees charged by agents are illegal under the Commission on Disposal of Land Order 1986.

Welcoming the news, SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said: "Agent letting fees have been a major issue in places like South Belfast where there are a large number of tenants renting privately. Many of these tenants have been charged on top of a month's rent in advance, as well as a security deposit, placing too heavy a burden on individuals and families who are often a captive market.

"The SDLP understands the private rented sector are an important part of the housing market, but there must be fairness and transparency in the process to ensure tenants are protected.

"Landlords paying agents to deliver tenancies is part of the routine letting and landlord management process, and not the responsibility of the tenant themselves - these tenant fees effectively allow the agent to be paid twice.

"The amount repayable to tenants in Northern Ireland could amount to many hundreds of thousands of pounds and we will be monitoring developments closely and supporting the organisations campaigning to ensure this practice is stopped."

(LM)

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