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Coronavirus: Stormont MLAs could conduct their work at home via video-link if crisis grows

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Question: Sinead Bradley

Question: Sinead Bradley

Question: Sinead Bradley

Officials at Stormont are looking at the possibility of MLAs working from home as efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus continue.

Northern Ireland is currently in a containment phase, with a limited number of individuals being advised to self-isolate depending on whether they are infected or have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus.

However, it was reported last week that the UK is moving towards the second phase of its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley submitted a question to the Assembly asking what steps it is putting in place to mitigate any effects of the delay phase.

The South Down MLA asked the Assembly Commission what investigatory work they have carried out regarding remote access to Assembly committee meetings to ensure quorum can be achieved.

It has now emerged that if MLAs are prevented from travelling to Stormont, either because they have to self-isolate or because of travel restrictions, Assembly business will be conducted by video-link.

The commission said: "The potential challenges to the conduct of Assembly business in relation to Covid-19 are complex and difficult to anticipate.

"The Assembly Commission will make decisions based on best advice from the Public Health Agency and other public bodies as appropriate.

"In relation to remote access to Assembly Committee meetings, Standing Order 49(5) allows a quorum to be present where members are linked to the meeting by a video-conferencing facility.

"Assembly Broadcasting have previously provided the video-conferencing facility to allow witnesses to give evidence to committee during a meeting.

"Officials are currently undertaking further investigatory work on how this might be able to work in circumstances where members are unable to physically attend a committee meeting."

Belfast Telegraph