Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Big two accused of power carve-up and failing to deliver by smaller groups left in the shade

Mike Nesbitt
Mike Nesbitt

The UUP, Alliance and the SDLP joined forces at the end of another Stormont year to warn the Assembly is still failing to deliver.

The smaller parties said the power carve-up between the DUP and Sinn Fein is worse than ever as MLAs head off on their summer break.

"The Sinn Fein/DUP carve-up at the heart of Government gets worse, not better. The 'so what?' and 'nutters' attitude has to change next term," UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said.

He was referring to Sinn Fein minister John O'Dowd's response to their concerns over the shared future plans, and the comments of the DUP's Jimmy Spratt over some of those opposed to the proposed Maze peace centre.

Mr Nesbitt also referred to the statement last September by Kate Barker of the Economic Advisory Group that local politicians should have their feet "held to the fire" for economic under-achievement.

"Political feet should be well warmed after this last year," he claimed, pointing out that welfare reform legislation has stalled and the education legislation, along with the promised Education and Skills Authority, is in limbo. We have to be realistic about the shortcomings as well as the achievements of the political process. Northern Ireland can have a bright future, but the Assembly needs to start delivering."

Alliance's Stewart Dickson said: "We are now two years into this Assembly term. However, we are yet to see movement on a range of legislation that continues to be blocked for unknown reasons in the Executive. When can we expect to see the legislation on welfare reform, RPA, ESA, a sexual orientation strategy, a single equality Bill or a racial equality strategy?"

The SDLP's Alban Maginness added: "I have been saying for some time that Stormont is stable, but sterile."

Assembly Speaker William Hay said: "The Assembly and Members are often subjected to criticism, as they would expect, but looking back over this term I think it is also an opportunity to look at some positive developments.

"This Assembly session has seen a number of occasions where there has been an intense focus on debates in the Chamber on social and economic issues that affect us.

"In my view, the Assembly is clearly developing as a legislature, perhaps not as fast as many would like in the system we have, but watching from the chair, I often reflect that 10 or 15 years ago I was not so sure that locally elected Members would be debating and deciding these issues."

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