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We need a reformed Stormont

By John McCallister

Published 09/10/2015

John McCallister
John McCallister

In 1998, I voted for the Belfast Agreement. I still strongly support the principles of inclusivity and power-sharing that the Agreement was founded upon.

The system of government we created provided us with relative stability and inclusivity. However, the price for this was dysfunctional institutions, virtually incapable of providing good governance.

Next year will see the first cohort of voters born after 1998. These young adults have experienced neither the Troubles nor the peace process, yet the democratic system and political parties for which they might vote are overwhelmingly defined by the Troubles, the peace process and the constitutional question.

If we change nothing, the next generation will be forced to send politicians to sit in the straitjacket of the peace process which is the Assembly.

In providing the majority of political parties with the opportunity to be in government without the need for meaningful compromise, or real power-sharing, we have spent more time trying to fix blame for the past while abdicating any responsibility for the present, or the future.

My Assembly and Executive Reform Bill will be debated at Stormont on Monday. I believe I have put together a package of reform which will allow for more collective, responsible and accountable government. At the same time, by creating an Opposition, those parties not in government will better be able to hold a reformed Executive to account.

By maintaining d'Hondt, replacing petitions of concern with a minority protection mechanism and providing all parties with the potential to participate in meaningful opposition politics, the proposed changes in my Bill are consistent with the principles of inclusivity and power-sharing central to the Belfast Agreement.

The public are fed up with politicians. However, their desire to see this place work is not diminished, to have local solutions to local problems and to see a better future. If our political institutions are to survive, we must grab the available opportunities.

Nationalists, unionists and others have nothing to fear from my Bill and we should, therefore, not miss the chance to deliver meaningful change.

John McCallister is Independent Unionist MLA for South Down

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