MLAs back plans for a Stormont Opposition, as Sinn Fein warns against creating 'Frankenstein's monster'
Sinn Fein has warned against the creation of a "Frankenstein's monster" at Stormont as MLAs backed plans for an official Opposition for the first time.
The passing of a Private Member's Bill from Independent MLA John McCallister paves the way for the formation of an Opposition after the May election - likely to involve the Ulster Unionists or SDLP.
Sinn Fein voted against the legislation, which also sought to establish collective responsibility in the Executive and remove the present Assembly designation of MLAs, but it was severely diluted in debates over recent weeks.
Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney said the current Stormont system was "designed for a particular purpose and that, when you try to move away from that or fuse it with another system, you could create Frankenstein's monster."
He said Mr McCallister "may be well intentioned, but, sometimes the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. That is why we were cautious and stood opposed."
But Mr McCallister, a former deputy leader of both the UUP and NI21, said: "There is a hunger from the people we represent to get on with governance and delivery and to move to a much more mature politics where policy matters. They expect the Executive and the Assembly to deliver.
"Most of the disagreements between Sinn Fein and me have not been about what an Opposition looks like. Instead, they have been about how we get there."
Former Ulster Unionist minister Danny Kennedy commented: "I hope that we will now see Opposition structures in place for parties to occupy should they wish following the next Assembly election."
Alliance's Trevor Lunn called it a good day for the Assembly and democracy and said the most vital part of the Bill, despite being "well shredded", had survived intact.
Jim Allister accused Sinn Fein of trying to deny NI "even the right to have an Opposition. Sinn Fein stands exposed as anti-democratic in its approaches to democratic institutions... whatever it says elsewhere (the Irish Republic)".
Green Party MLA Steven Agnew congratulated Mr McCallister, but said: "We had an opportunity to really improve governance in Northern Ireland, and it was an opportunity wasted."