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Jim Allister insists Stormont needs a shake-up... and an opposition

By Noel McAdam

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister has rejected suggestions the public are increasingly “buying in to” the Stormont set-up, despite its flaws.

Launching the party’s bid to gain a foothold in the next Assembly, he said he believes the results of the May 5 poll will reflect support for the TUV’s demand for a radical shake-up of the devolved institutions.

As it prepared to unveil its manifesto, the TUV re-emphasised its message that, while supporting devolution, it should not be backed “at any price”, and the right to form an opposition and vote a party out of government “should never be sacrificed”.

It is running 12 candidates in the Assembly race and 41 in local government elections, and argues tallies from previous elections demonstrate the party will take transfers from across unionism.

“There are very few unionists out there who don’t have at least some degree of sympathy with the TUV position, and this will mean that we will attract a lot of crucial second and third preferences,” a spokesman said.

Mr Allister told the Belfast Telegraph: “I have to say that the overwhelming feeling which I find on the doors when I talk about Stormont is one of disappointment.

“People haven’t forgotten that just a few months ago they had to queue for water.

“In Scotland the transport minister resigned because of traffic disruption caused by the heavy snowfall.

“Yet the vote of no confidence in (Regional Development Minister) Conor Murphy — which was promised by the DUP — was never forced. I think that brought home to people that in Northern Ireland ministers are not accountable to the people.

“The only person who could remove the ministers from their jobs is the nominating officer of their party.”

The former MEP, who resigned from the DUP over the deal with Sinn Fein which restored devolved government, described the water crisis, “chaos” in education and insufficient funding for a cancer unit at Altnagnelvin as “the sort of thing you would hear about a Third World country”.

“So, no, I don’t believe there is increasing buy-in to Stormont as presently constituted,” he said.

“People are responding to the TUV message that the institutions are in need of radical reform and I believe that the results of the election will reflect that,” he said.

Mr Allister contrasted the same-day elections in Scotland and Wales with Northern Ireland “because while our Scottish and Welsh cousins can change their government, we cannot due to mandatory coalition”.

He added: “I believe that the fact that elections to the devolved administrations across the UK are taking place on the same day and that people can see a voluntary coalition in operation at Westminster will make these points much more easy for the ordinary man in the street to grasp.”

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