Belfast Telegraph

Paterson urged to work with parties

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson should work closely with Stormont parties, rather than launching criticisms at them from a distance, the DUP has said.

After Mr Paterson launched a public consultation on the future shape of the Assembly, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said it was unlikely to shed new light on the subject.

The North Belfast MP said reforms required agreement between Stormont parties, but said Mr Paterson was failing to build relations with them.

Mr Paterson invited public responses on issues including the number of Assembly members, politicians' double jobbing, the possible creation of an opposition, and on the length of Assembly terms.

Mr Dodds said: "There can be no doubt that the public want to see the best value and most efficient government, particularly in these difficult economic times."

The Democratic Unionist said the DUP had long argued for a reduction in the size of the Assembly, but said all parties had already submitted their views on possible reforms to the Assembly and Executive Review Committee (AERC).

"Given that all parties made their views on such arrangements known in submissions to the AERC it is unlikely that this consultation is going to throw any new light on the subject, or bring forward any new consensus," he said.

"The public in Northern Ireland want to see parties working together to find agreement on the way forward. That is also necessary from the Government at Westminster where it is better to work with local parties rather than launch criticisms at a distance, which unfortunately the Secretary of State has engaged in recently."

Mr Paterson added: "I am keen to hear views on the future size of the Assembly, the length of its terms and how, in line with the commitments I made at the general election, we should remove double jobbing once and for all."

Sinn Fein Assembly group leader Raymond McCartney said: "Any agreements on the future operation of the Assembly will be reached by the local political parties. This is the second time in the past number of weeks that Mr Paterson has made clumsy attempts to make himself relevant to politics here. Sinn Fein will not tolerate any attempts by Mr Paterson or anyone else to undermine the power-sharing and equality provisions which lie at the heart of the successful operation of the political institutions."

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