Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

SDLP delivers a damning critique of the story so far

Devolution is up “but not running”, the SDLP will argue today in a new document analysing over two years of the current DUP and Sinn Fein-led administration.

The ‘report card’ from the party, whose sole representative on the Executive is Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie, is severely critical of the level of achievement and performance — and makes unfavourable comparisons to the last power-sharing regime which they headed with Ulster Unionists.

“On the face of it devolution appears to be working but it is clear that on a practical level it is failing,” the Making Devolution Work paper concludes.

It argues the Executive meets less regularly than any of its predecessors while the North South Ministerial council has met less than half the number of times compared to the previous dispensation — 30 meetings compared to 71.

“To date 38 pieces of legislation have been introduced in this Assembly in the last two years and four months. The last one managed 64 in 30 months. And much of it is simply political karaoke — laws passed to retain parity with Westminster,” the paper said.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said his Ulster Unionist counterpart Sir Reg Empey was unfortunately correct when he recently referred to the Executive being run like a ‘hucksters shop.’

“Meetings between Minister’s special advisors, a regular occurrence prior to meetings of the Executive, have now been cancelled since last year’s five month stand-off. Important Executive papers are not tabled until shortly before meetings begin and often agendas are produced after the meetings have begun,” he said.

“Devolution of justice powers is still no closer. Schools are just a matter of weeks away from an unregulated system of confusion and chaos and there is no movement on an Irish Language Bill.”

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