SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood has welcomed signals that a deal is finally within reach between the DUP and Sinn Féin.
The Foyle MLA said: “For over a year the people of the North have been badly let down. I therefore welcome signals that a deal is finally within reach between the DUP and Sinn Féin.
“Having been frozen in failure for over a year, a deal must not be a moment of self- congratulation for Sinn Féin and the DUP. If a deal is done, it must instead be a moment when our politics returns to the real challenges and crises facing this society.
“It is clear that, during these yearlong secret talks between Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, there has been no real mention of Brexit, of our ailing economy and no priority given to the crises engulfing our health service and our school budgets. People deserve to know that up to this point the talks between Sinn Féin and the DUP have not focused on these issues – as parties they simply weren’t interested in them.
“Therefore, if a Programme for Government negotiation begins in the next week, the SDLP will be making Brexit, the economy, health and education our priority. A new Executive which deals with these priorities is the only basis through which inclusive government is possible.
“To bring that focus I am again setting out the SDLP’s proposals and priorities including on Brexit, increased childcare provision, City Deals for Derry and Belfast that finally see the expansion of the Magee campus, the delivery of key road and infrastructure projects such as the A5, the A6 and the Narrow Water Bridge, increased new build social housing and practical interventions to tackle poverty.
“This sits in addition to forging ahead with the health service transformation plan, bringing certainty to patients and professionals in our hospitals, and resourcing our schools to provide the highest quality education for our children.
“For a year northern politics has ignored the economic and social rights of our people -the SDLP will once again be putting them back on the table.
“People understand that simply forming a new Executive is not in itself enough.
“The real change necessary is an end to the cycle of two parties who have proved themselves very good at the art of political standoff but very bad at the responsibility of government.
“That is the joint DUP/Sinn Féin status quo that must now end.
“Any new Government must use its power to tackle the real challenges faced by this society, it must be a new government which ends the decade long pattern of DUP intransigence and Sinn Féin weakness and most of all it must be a new government which proves itself of actual relevance and value to all our people,” he added.