Bradshaw backs calls for action in cross-party abortion letter

PB APNI shotPaula Bradshaw MLA has signed a cross-party letter alongside elected representatives from across the UK and Ireland to support a campaign by Stella Creasy MP, which urges the British and Irish governments to use the forthcoming British Irish Inter-Governmental Conference to play a role in moving along the issue of abortion here in Northern Ireland.

Paula said, “I signed the letter because I felt the two main actions being requested are effectively calling the two governments to account on the issue of meeting commitments on human rights for women here. The first action is for the UK Prime Minister to set out an explicit legislative timetable for parliamentary scrutiny in Westminster of the Domestic Violence Bill, which includes the potential repeal of sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861. This would result in the decriminalisation of abortion across the UK.

“The second action calls for an urgent ‘pathway to adequately provide for human rights – including compliant healthcare access for women in Northern Ireland’. The British and Irish government are co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, and as such, should be doing more to getting the institutions defined under it back up and running as soon as possible. I believe the letter is a clear reminder of their responsibilities under this.

“I want to see this ‘pathway’ defined and agreed at the Inter-Governmental Conference, so that we, locally-elected members of the legislative assembly, can get back to work and to put in place legislation that meets the healthcare needs of women here.”

Bradshaw expresses concern over community group funding news

28Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw has expressed concern at news grassroots community and voluntary groups are being asked to trim up to 15 per cent of their income from funding allocations.

The South Belfast MLA said the groups are being told to assess their projects to see where savings could be made from their funding from the Department for Communities. She said the political impasse was making things more difficult for the organisations.

“As someone who worked in the community and voluntary sector for 19 years before entering politics full-time, I am acutely aware of the year-on-year, contract after contract, request from funders to look for ways in which ‘fat could be removed’ from project, revenue or salary budget lines.

“The reality is the community and voluntary groups, delivering to the most deprived and vulnerable across Northern Ireland, really have nothing left to offer up by way of cost savings. On the contrary, utility costs are rising, the introduction of employers’ pensions contributions, and inflationary pressures on the cost of materials for project delivery have all contributed to this point where the amount of funding received does not even cover current costs, let alone reduced future allocations.

“Without a functioning Executive at Stormont to get to grips with the dire situation around the Budget and introduce measures to protect funding for frontline projects, it seems inconceivable valuable community groups will not have to drastically reduce what services and programmes they can deliver, or worse, close altogether.”

Minister needed to deliver same protection to children as in Scotland

pb316Alliance Health Spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has welcomed news that the defence of “justifiable assault” will be removed from Scots law, thus protecting children from physical assault, and demanded the immediate restoration of the institutions so that a Minister can make the same move in Northern Ireland.

The South Belfast MLA stated: “The Alliance Party passed a formal policy some weeks ago to remove protections in law, over 150 years old, which effectively allow the assault of children. This is entirely in line with advice from the Children’s Commission.

“As with many things, it seems plain that there is an Assembly majority for this move to stop the physical punishment of children and offer them the exact same defence against assault in law as adults.

“Yet, as with many things, we cannot get on and deliver this change because we have no Ministers in place. The two big parties know the deal they have to do. It is unacceptable that children should be the latest victims of daft political games.”

A workable deal on language and culture is on the table

PB APNI shotPaula Bradshaw MLA has said there is no excuse for the DUP and Sinn Fein to continue the political impasse after Alliance presented the two parties with workable proposals on an Irish Language Act.

Ms Bradshaw said while the issue of an Act was not a priority for Alliance, movement on the logjam was clearly needed before an Executive could be re-established and issues such as health and education dealt with.

“I have been engaged in discussions throughout the summer with parties and other interested groups to put together proposals which deliver on the requirement to fulfil obligations on the Irish language, while at the same time enhancing our cultural and tourism offering, including reference to Ulster-Scots.

“We are at the stage now where this process is complete and the proposals can be agreed. The deal is there to benefit on a cross-community basis – all that is required is the political will to do it. We have a fair and proportionate way forward to ensure respect for all those who cherish the language, enhancement of the rights in education and the legal system, and a legislative foundation to enable the development of the language as part of our common cultural wealth. But we have also ensured there will be no compulsion whatsoever on those who take no interest in the language.

“We have also put forward a timeframe in the proposals to enable the restoration of the Executive with a guarantee the proposed legislation will become law swiftly upon the re-establishment of the institutions, but with full Assembly scrutiny in advance.

“With a deal on these language and culture issues now clearly available, there is now no further excuse whatsoever for the DUP and Sinn Fein not to proceed to nominate a First Minister and deputy First Minister early next month. The issues in front of us – in health, education, the economy and a whole host of others – are too important for them to continue to opt out of their responsibility to form an Executive.”

Alliance’s proposals to deliver a non-discriminatory Irish Language Act will serve to:
– protect and promote the language as part of our cultural heritage;
– demonstrate respect for all who cherish the Irish language;
– broaden rights without introducing cost and compulsion.

Alliance’s proposals will not:
– compel pupils to learn Irish in schools;
– force the introduction of dual-signage in public places;
– Introduce discriminatory employment practices;
– legislate for costly government programmes and policies.

Alliance’s proposals:
– meet the requirement to deliver on past agreements;
– deliver language and culture legislation with cross-community benefit;
– put education and promotion ahead of cost and compulsion.

These proposals will show no issue is insurmountable with good will, courage and political leadership.  You can find Alliance’s position paper on the Irish language here.

Shock sexual assault figures are call to action

PB APNI shotAlliance South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw has said a survey showing over 160 students stating they had been victims of sexual assault is a call to do far more on the issue of non-consensual sexual relations.

Ms Bradshaw said: “It would be extremely alarming if just one student had reported they had been a victim of a sexual assault, but for nearly 6% of those surveyed to do so is frightening.

“This shows that the message is not getting through, and that attitudes have not changed anything like sufficiently.

“We clearly still have a long way to go to address even the broad issue of inappropriate sexual advances, particularly where people have lost their inhibitions under the influence of alcohol or even drugs. What is required is a fundamental culture change, recognising that any form of unwanted sexual approach is wrong and ensuring that it is discouraged by everyone.

“The objective is simple. People must be able to enjoy a night out without having to fear sexual assault or indeed inappropriate sexual conduct of any time. This should not be a big ask.

“I commend the Student Consent Research Collaboration group on its work highlighting the issue and note classes are now being run by Queen’s University. However, this is a clear call to action to do far more, across all strands of society, to stop sexual assault.”

Political vacuum putting lives at risk

pb316Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has warned delays in reforming legislation relating to the Fire and Rescue Service caused by the current political vacuum may put lives at risk.

The South Belfast MLA said there was a gap in regulations meaning a multi-occupied building with only domestic premises, such as was the case in the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, would not fall under anyone’s jurisdiction once the building is occupied.
She said one outcome of this could be no requirement for risk assessments at such locations.

“There is an obvious public safety concern as a result, as well as concern for firefighters who have to go in when everyone else is running out. This is an aspect of the legislation which needs to be revisited urgently, and in the wake of Grenfell there is a strong argument for legislation to require sprinklers in the common areas of all such premises, including those which are residential.

“In the absence of a functioning Assembly and Health Minister, amendments to the relevant regulations and a Bill to ensure safety in residential buildings will remain impossible and the gap will continue to present a major public safety concern.

“It is long past time the larger parties got on with their jobs for the sake of issues such as this. With the largest mandates come the largest responsibilities to the public.”

South Belfast can be won for Alliance

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the South Belfast News about the upcoming election. South Belfast is the most liberal, diverse and cosmopolitan constituency in Northern Ireland and I want to be an MP which will uphold and advance that.

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