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Uncertain time ahead for MLAs

By Will Chambre

Published 05/02/2016

Naomi Long
Naomi Long

Some say that the largest source of derelict property in Northern Ireland comes in the shape of Parliament Buildings at Stormont, given the unwholesome perception of local politics. But I think that isn't fair.

Indeed, if that was the case, it could pose a few problems for Sinn Fein, who have reintroduced their idea of taxing derelict premises.

What's more certain is that, with the winds of change coming in May, there will be a few constituency offices becoming derelict.

This includes the South Belfast abode of UUP MLA Michael McGimpsey, who announced his decision to step down from politics recently.

At the age of 67 he has had a long innings, but in announcing his retirement he couldn't resist a few parting shots at the DUP over his term as Health Minister.

It is nostalgia for the cut-and-thrust of the Assembly chamber that has Naomi Long putting herself forward to be an MLA again, too.

She confessed that she considered quitting politics after losing her job as an East Belfast MP, but is back now ready for May's battle.

She is one of three Alliance candidates in East Belfast who will slug it out with a plethora of other contenders.

It could be the constituency that will require a supercomputer to work out all the permutations of transfers, as the sums are simply beyond the possibilities of mental arithmetic.

Impossibility is something MLAs are going to have to deal with in coming weeks, as it surely will be impossible to actually pass all the legislation currently moving through the Assembly.

Indeed, a rough calculation suggests that our MLAs may even be facing an overnight stay or two - just to work through the list of Bills.

If this is the case, let's just hope there aren't too many binding friendships created as it will only end in tears when the Assembly numbers are reduced under one of the Bills being considered.

On the other hand, the reduction isn't due to come into effect until 2021. If history is anything to go by, that's enough time for our MLAs to fall out, kiss and make up, and fall out again.

  • Will Chambre is a public affairs consultant

Belfast Telegraph

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