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SF and DUP accused of arrogance over moves to restrict Opposition debates

By Noel McAdam

Published 08/06/2016

Furious: Alex Attwood
Furious: Alex Attwood

Stormont's twin Opposition parties have joined forces for the first time to accuse "arrogant" DUP and Sinn Fein of attempting to shut them down.

The Ulster Unionists and SDLP charged the two Executive parties with "slapping democracy in the face".

The first bust-up since the appointment of the Executive followed the regular Tuesday session of the Business Committee, which sets the Assembly's agenda.

Mr Nesbitt and Colum Eastwood's parties said the DUP and Sinn Fein had "railroaded" through a rule change allowing the Opposition parties to bring debates to the floor only once a fortnight, and to have 'Opposition days' only "every so often".

They argued the move flew in the face of an agreement in March by the committee that there would be proper provision if either of the two smaller parties went into Opposition.

In a joint statement, SDLP chief whip Alex Attwood and his UUP counterpart Robin Swann said: "In key votes on Assembly business, the DUP and Sinn Fein have shown both their arrogance and their fear, with a slap in the face for our democracy."

Mr Attwood added: "Now, after only two Opposition debates, the DUP and Sinn Fein today railroaded through a change, replacing Opposition motions every second week with Opposition days every so often. These actions show both their arrogance and their fear. Both Sinn Fein and the DUP look and sound rattled. The proof is that two Opposition debates over two days was two too many for them."

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