The leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland has said it is time to reform the political system at Stormont and "move forward from the polarised politics of the past."
Clare Bailey was speaking at the launch of her party's election manifesto in Belfast on Thursday.
She also warned the “urgency of the climate crisis” was “becoming more and more obvious” and addressing it would require “system change, because the system that has created the problems is not the system that can solve the problems and this is where our politics needs to be focused.”
Addressing a crowd of approximately 40 party members, officers and elected representatives on the Belfast Barge on the River Lagan, Ms Bailey said a political system which “allows constant collapse, constant stalemate” was clearly a system “long overdue reform.”
She said it was time to remove community designation – the mechanism which requires parties to declare themselves as unionist or nationalist in order to ensure cross-community balance on controversial issues – from the Assembly’s structures.
The Green Party, Alliance and People Before Profit (PBP) do not accept either designation and are therefore categorised as “other”. They are opposed to this system of designation and argue the views of their voters should not be excluded from contentious decisions.
The Green Party NI currently has two outgoing Assembly members (MLAs) and eight councillors, and is aiming to increase its number of MLAs in the election on May 5th.
In its manifesto, the party pledged to increase investment in mental health services, end academic selection, deliver a Bill of Rights and introduce a “properly calculated” living wage.
It said it would also invest in renewable energy and ban all forms of fossil fuels, expand public transport and invest in cycling infrastructure, and establish an independent Environmental Protection Agency.
Ms Bailey said the manifesto launched on Thursday outlined a “green vision for a new approach to politics in Northern Ireland” which would ensure that the “multiple and ever-increasing crises in regular people’s lives are addressed.”
“The Executive parties have shown time and time again that they cannot deliver the solutions needed when people continue to suffer the consequences.
“The Green Party is the largest opposition party that we have and we represent the main alternative to the broken five-party Executive system,” she said.
The party's deputy leader, Malachy O'Hara, who is a candidate in north Belfast, said the choice between the "traditional parties and the Greens could not be more clear."
He said it was “time to invest in education, it’s time to end segregation, it’s time to end the marketisation of higher education and it’s time to scrap tuition fees.”
The outgoing MLA for North Down, Rachel Woods, said only the Greens understood "how deep, how radical and how urgent the changes we need to make are."
She criticised Northern Ireland’s “shameful” record on environmental issues, and said it had the “lowest emissions reductions in the UK and our per capita emissions are the highest in any part of these islands.
“When the parties of government failed to step up, the Greens stepped in,” she said. “We introduced the climate change bill.”
She said it was time to “deliver the policies and action our people and our planet need. It’s time to force Stormont and take a new approach,” she said.