Green Party's presence on business committee shows the Assembly is finally making progress
Letter of the day: Stormont accountability
I note with delight the fact that the Green Party will now have a place on the Northern Ireland Assembly's business committee. This committee is one of the most powerful, yet secretive, parts of the Assembly. It decides what is debated, how speakers will be called in debates and other rules about the operation of the Assembly.
This is the first time that a party other than one of the five main parties will be present on the committee. This is an historic step in Northern Ireland's fledgling devolved Assembly. It has been apparent for many years now that the Greens (and other smaller parties), who were previously part of the so-called 'naughty corner', were the real Opposition in the Assembly. This step will further allow them to hold the larger parties to account.
Since the last election, with the creation of an official Opposition, we see that the smaller parties are the ones offering a real alternative.
Take, for example, a debate on October 4 about openness and transparency in the Assembly. Steven Agnew, the Green leader, proposed the creation of an independent body to ensure that the Executive was abiding by the rules. In contrast, all the Opposition could manage was to call for the First Minister to make a statement.
It's obvious to me that the status quo parties have run out of ideas and that, if we want change, it will have to come from the newer parties.
Their new place on the previously closed shop of the business committee will allow them to bring about this change more effectively.