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Political rivals slam DUP ministerial policy

Published 19/10/2015

Fearghal McKinney accused the DUP of lacking principle after ministers attended debate on special advisers' pay but were not present for one on autism
Fearghal McKinney accused the DUP of lacking principle after ministers attended debate on special advisers' pay but were not present for one on autism

The absence of unionist ministers from the power-sharing Executive has been branded nonsensical.

The rolling resignation and reappointment tactic adopted by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) since the murder of a man by IRA members came in for fierce criticism during a Stormont debate.

Trevor Lunn, from the cross-community Alliance Party, said: "It is tactical nonsense that has been going on here for the last five weeks."

Northern Ireland's political institutions have been teetering on the verge of collapse since former IRA man Kevin McGuigan was shot dead in August.

Following a police assessment that individual members of the IRA were responsible for the killing in revenge for the murder of ex IRA commander Gerard "Jock" Davison three months earlier, the DUP insisted it could not be business as usual at the devolved Assembly.

The party pulled all but one of its ministers from the Executive, leaving only finance minister Arlene Foster in a "gate-keeping" role as acting first minister.

DUP MLAs have also boycotted debates in the Assembly chamber.

Fearghal McKinney, from the SDLP, likened the tactic to fiction. "You quite literally could not make it up," he said.

The South Belfast MLA also accused the DUP of lacking principle after some MLAs attended a debate on capping the pay for political special advisers but were not present for a discussion on autism.

"There is this perception of deceit, " he said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein MLA Fra McCann said there was "no logic" to the plan, which he claimed had delayed the passage of important legislation.

The DUP has repeatedly defended its stance and claims the "messy" situation would not have arisen if their request for an adjournment had been accepted.

The DUP did not take part it the debate.

A motion claiming that the in-out DUP policy amounted a breach of the ministerial code was passed by 54 votes to 34.

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