Belfast Telegraph

Elliott urges formal opposition

People in Northern Ireland can no longer be denied the right to vote out a government available to those elsewhere in the UK, the Assembly heard.

Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott said a formally-recognised opposition is required at Stormont by 2015 to improve delivery of public services.

Calling for an end to the mandatory form of power-sharing, which sees all the main parties working alongside each other in the same ruling administration, Mr Elliott said changes were needed to make the Assembly more democratic.

"We need a proper and formally recognised opposition here and that means I think it gives the people out in the community an opportunity to actually change government to a better extent than they have at the moment," he said.

"And it will I believe in the long term provide much greater delivery and better delivery for the community at large and that's who we are here to represent, the public."

Mandatory coalition was a mainstay of the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998 and introduced in order to ensure power was shared between unionists and nationalists.

Mr Elliott, whose party was one of the main architects of the 1998 accord, said Northern Ireland had moved on and it was now time to allow an official opposition, noting that every other region in the UK had one.

"So I don't see there's any reason why we shouldn't have it here in Northern Ireland," he said.

"I think we all recognise the reasons why we didn't have that process in 1998 but we are moving on and we need to look at a process by whereby we can have that opposition.

"And I think the community at large would welcome it, the community at large want to see a much more democratic system here in the Northern Ireland assembly."

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