Northern Ireland

NI political crisis: Greens call for 'citizens' assembly'

Steven Agnew
Image caption Steven Agnew has called for a Northern Ireland citizen's assembly

The Green Party leader has said contentious issues need to be taken away from Northern Ireland's political parties and opened up to a "citizens' assembly".

Steven Agnew was speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics programme.

Northern Ireland has been without a power-sharing executive since January.

The latest talks between the two main parties, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin broke up without agreement.

Sinn Féin's demand for legislation to give official status to the Irish language has become one of the main stumbling blocks in negotiations to restore the executive.

The DUP's deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said he wants direct-rule ministers running NI "within weeks" if an agreement cannot be reached to restore power-sharing.

Mr Agnew said on Sunday that no party in Northern Ireland represented a majority and that the public have voted for political parties and not on specific issues.

"Put it to citizens... and actually test the will of the people," he said.

"I think we are beyond the point of parties representing the people, they are representing their own vested interests."

Mr Agnew also said that "the Good Friday Agreement as we know it is dead".

Image caption Claire Sugden is the only independent member of the Northern Ireland Assembly

The Republic of Ireland has had a citizen's assembly since October 2016.

Its task is to advise elected representatives on ethical and political dilemmas such as abortion, climate change and dealing with the challenge of providing for an aging population.

Speaking on the same programme Independent MLA Claire Sugden said: "Under the current structures of the Good Friday Agreement, you get who you vote for, and in this circumstance it's Sinn Féin and the DUP and the only way to change this is to vote for someone else."

She encouraged voters to "start thinking about other issues, start thinking about health care, start thinking about education and start thinking about who you are actually voting for and if they can deliver, because for 10 months they haven't been able to".

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