The local agri-food sector is not a ‘plaything’ for the future Conservative leader, Alliance MLA John Blair has said.
Mr Blair made the comments in the wake of the Tories and the DUP passing the Protocol Bill through its Commons stages. It has been described as a ‘travesty’ by local agri-food sector representatives.
“Maintaining current levels of food production and self-sufficiency, plus further refocusing of funding towards sustainable food production and nature friendly farming, are among the priorities for the sector,” said Mr Blair, Alliance’s agricultural spokesperson.
“Enabling local farms to boost productivity and help move the industry towards net-zero is vital. As well as a reformed immigration system recognising agriculture needs and current labour challenges, addressing trading to support Northern Ireland’s continued food and drink exports, and ensuring our high animal welfare and environmental standards are maintained.
“If enacted, the UK Government’s plans to override parts of the Protocol would undermine Northern Ireland’s unfettered access to the Single Market. It allows for trade flows to continue seamlessly between Northern Ireland and the south. Unilateral action to change it will have severe implications for local farmers.
“These proposed changes will impact the local agriculture industry specifically because it relies on UK materials, such as grain and pesticide for its feedstocks. Under a dual regulatory regime, not co-designed with the EU, they would not be recognised as produced in accordance with EU standards and therefore could mean local food and drink products are not recognised within the Single Market.
“This would be a disaster for farmers and the wider agri-food sector.”
Alliance MLA John Blair has questioned the PSNI over on-going loyalist paramilitary activity he has described as “threatening and destructive”.
Speaking during this week’s Policing Board meeting, John asked if the PSNI were involved in or aware of any reassessment of the threat such criminals pose to national security and the safety of our community.
He added: “We still have a way to go to rid our society of the scourge of paramilitarism and recent reports of a sinister nature are extremely worrying.
“A perceived increase in high profile activities of loyalist paramilitaries – in some cases with arrests being made – signals we are entering worrying times. Yet we can all come together to deliver better for everyone in Northern Ireland.
“I made a point of raising this at the Policing Board as it is crucial the PSNI is across the detail of these threats, reassessing them as these loyalist paramilitaries become more active, either to national security or to communities and the safety of everyone caught up in the cycle.
“I will continue to push this issue with the Policing Board to ensure we do all we can to rid our streets of those who assume control.”
Alliance Policing Board spokesperson John Blair MLA has called for a special Policing Board meeting dedicated to issues around alleged misconduct and the associated processes within the PSNI.
The PSNI had confirmed it was investigating a number of alleged incidents of misconduct spanning a number of years, yet full details are yet to emerge.
John said: “We must have full disclosure and clarification around the number of outstanding investigations and while this morning gave some space to ask questions of the PSNI, this will never allow us to fully access what has happened.
“The impact of these revelations is far reaching, which is why we need a dedicated meeting where all the details can be laid out.
“The PSNI will be aware how serious this situation is, but we must ensure a full open and transparent process and that the policing board is kept fully up-to-date as the body responsible for holding the PSNI to account.”
The UK Government’s Bill legislation on the Northern Ireland Protocol will be a travesty for the local dairy sector, Alliance MLA John Blair has said.
The party’s agricultural spokesperson was speaking after the Government unveiled plans to override parts of the Protocol, which if enacted, would undermine Northern Ireland’s unfettered access to the EU Single Market.
“The dairy sector is an integral and important part of the local economy, providing employment for thousands of people and export sales of almost £600 million to dozens of countries,” said the South Antrim MLA.
“The Protocol allows for trade flows to continue seamlessly between Northern Ireland and the south. Unilateral action to change it will have severe implications for local dairy farmers.
“These proposed changes will impact the dairy industry specifically because it relies on UK materials, such as grain and pesticide for its feedstocks. Under a dual regulatory regime, not co-designed with the EU, they would not be recognised as produced in accordance with EU standards, and could therefore mean local dairy products are not recognised within the EU Single Market.
“This would be a travesty for dairy farmers and the wider agri-food sector.”
Alliance representatives have criticised a masked Easter Parade which saw petrol bombs thrown at police as sinister and completely wrong.
John Blair and Councillor Rachael Ferguson spoke out after the incident came on the third anniversary of the death of journalist Lyra McKee, a move they termed as shocking.
John Blair said: “There is nothing respectful or commemorative about violent attacks on Police officers, bringing further threat and fear to local communities.
“There is no place on our streets for paramilitary displays. Today’s incident was sinister and wrong on every level and offends right across out community. I am thinking of Lyra McKee, her family and her friends.”
Councillor Rachael Ferguson added: “The footage today from the city cemetery is simply shocking. On the anniversary of Lyra’s murder, have we not learned anything? I want our children to grow up in peace and my solidarity is with the PSNI coming under attack and with the families of Creggan who just want peace and to feel safe.”
Anyone with information should contact the PSNI on101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.