Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Call to ban Northern Ireland MPs from taking seats in Stormont

The Government should ban Northern Ireland MPs from serving in the Stormont assembly, a Westminster committee has said.

Responding to the calls from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Government has reiterated its threat to intervene if the parties failed to stamp out “double-jobbing” by 2015.

There are currently nine Northern Ireland MPs with Assembly seats. Last night their parties insisted they were committed to ending dual mandates by 2015, the end of the the current Westminster Parliament.

In its annual report, the committee said it had earlier called for the end of dual mandates at Westminster by 2011, prior to which 16 of the 18 Northern Ireland MPs also held Assembly seats.

It said: “Following the publication of our report, a number of dual mandate MPs indicated that they would give up their seat if elected to Westminster in May 2010 or not stand for re-election to the NI Assembly in 2011.

“But there are still nine Northern Ireland MPs — 50 per cent — who have dual mandates, two of whom are also ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive.

“The committee questions whether it is possible to sit in two national legislatures simultaneously and do justice to both roles.”

It added: “The political parties appear unwilling or unable to end dual mandates on a voluntary basis. We believe the Government should introduce legislation to bring the practice to an end by the time of the next Northern Ireland Assembly elections in May 2015.”

A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Office said: “We will end it legislatively if needs be.”

Two of the DUP’s MPs have seats at Stormont — Gregory Campbell and Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, who stepped down from the Assembly, welcomed the committee’s latest intervention.

All of Sinn Fein's five MPs hold Assembly seats, but the party is “committed to ending dual mandates by 2015”.

The SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell is an MP and an MLA for South Belfast, but outgoing party leader Margaret Ritchie has said she is to leave her Stormont seat.

An SDLP spokesman said it was party policy to end dual mandates, saying proposals it had previously put forward had been voted down by rival parties.

The Alliance Party's East Belfast MP Naomi Long has already left the Assembly.

Factfile

The double-jobbers:

  • SINN FEIN

Michelle Gildernew

Conor Murphy

Pat Doherty

Paul Maskey

Martin McGuinness

  • SDLP

Alasdair McDonnell

Margaret Ritchie

  • DUP

Gregory Campbell

Sammy Wilson

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