Weed control ignites fresh row in Stormont
A Stormont debate over footpath weeds has spread into a full-grown row about the Assembly wasting time.
Alliance MLAs said they would refuse to take part in the debate, scheduled for today, because the issue is too trivial.
But the DUP, which put the issue on today's agenda, said the Regional Development Department is paying out £4m a year on personal injury claims, many from people who say they have tripped on footpaths.
The DUP motion castigates the eastern division of the Roads Service, which includes the Greater Belfast area, for failing to adequately control weeds on foot-ways and other public areas.
But Alliance's Stewart Dickson argued: "The Assembly is not the forum to discuss issues of this nature and there are far more important issues that it should be concentrating on.
"It would be better to get all 108 MLAs out with spades and trowels to address the issue, and to have an Assembly debate on a matter of greater concern.
"Neither I, nor my Alliance colleagues, will be taking part in this debate as there are more pressing matters that we could be dealing with to help the public."
The East Antrim MLA conceded the weeds problem is an issue which should be addressed.
The DUP intends to demand that Ulster Unionist Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy pledges "to ensure the problem with weeds is resolved without further delay".
DUP chief whip Peter Weir said: "Individuals will judge the importance of each issue depending how it affects them.
"The issue of weed control on footpaths within the Roads Service Eastern Division affects a large number of people across several constituencies and whilst Alliance Party members may be unaware of the problem, DUP representatives across these areas have been attempting to deal with residents' concerns.
"Whilst it is no surprise that many Alliance representatives are out of touch with ordinary people, it is also apparent that Mr Dickson does not care that the Department for Regional Development is currently spending around £4 million per year on personal injury claims, many of those from people who have tripped on footpaths.