Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith MP visits NICVA

21 Aug 2019 Seamus McAleavey    Last updated: 21 Aug 2019

The new Secretary of State Julian Smith MP visited NICVA on Wednesday 21 August 2019 and had discussions with a voluntary and community sector delegation.

Present was Olwen Lyner, Vice Chair of NICVA and Chief Executive of NIACRO; Michael Briggs, East Belfast Community Development Agency; Paul Roberts, Ashton Centre; Kate Clifford, Rural Community Network; and Seamus McAleavey and Geoff Nuttall from NICVA.

NICVA pressed upon the Secretary the difficulties that arose for voluntary and community organisations caused by the political impasse, the absence of a devolved government and the fears around a no deal Brexit.

Northern Ireland’s lack of strategic governmental direction has caused stagnation and harm to public services and services delivered by voluntary and community groups. Four years of one-year ‘salami sliced’ budgets has taken a toll and degrading all services. Northern Ireland needs active government and political leadership in difficult times.

The delegation also pressed the Secretary of State on Brexit saying it was imperative that an agreement was reached as no deal would be a failure for the UK in negotiations and a catastrophe for Northern Ireland’s interests.

Speaking of the meeting NICVA Chief Executive Seamus McAleavey said:

“We had a very good meeting with Julian Smith.  It was very open, honest and candid and our representatives told him exactly what they thought.  He was also very engaged, receptive and keen to understand the consequences of political actions or indeed inaction and its impact on people on the ground.

We encouraged him to push the ‘talks process’ especially as the Brexit deadline of 31 October is looming fast and even at this late stage we should have an official Northern Ireland Government position on a deal that protects Northern Ireland’s interests.  Whilst we need Stormont back soon, we do recognise that the political parties must properly settle their differences to insure effective government”.

The Secretary of State assured NICVA that he would develop his engagement with voluntary and community organisations during his time in Northern Ireland.