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DUP unveils proposals to cut MLAs at Stormont

The DUP has unveiled ambitious plans to slash the number of Executive Departments and MLAs by 2015.

The party pledges not to crash the Stormont institutions but aims to move toward a voluntary coalition by agreement.

One of the most immediate proposals is to continue the present cross-community system of electing a Justice Minister after the post comes up for renewal next April.

If accepted, this is likely to guarantee the post to David Ford, the Alliance leader. Under the d’Hondt mathematical formula by which other ministries are allocated it would most likely go to the SDLP.

This is a sensitive issue because Alliance has two ministries while the larger SDLP and UUP have only one each. It remains to be seen if the SDLP will accept the situation.

The DUP argues: “We believe that any change to the current framework should only be considered in the context of a wider review of devolution arrangements between 2012 and 2015.”

The full proposals are contained in ‘Making Stormont Work’, a submission to the Assembly and Executive Review Committee (AERC), which was unveiled by Simon Hamilton, an MLA for Strangford.

The proposals are aimed at keeping the Assembly up and running while MLAs “work to build political consensus to bring about change”.

Under the present arrangements the DUP and Sinn Fein can force through any policy they are agreed on. However, the DUP pledges not to force a vote “in circumstances where other parties behave responsibly and constructively”.

Instead, they will pause to consider written objections to any proposal.

Specific issues covered in the submission include:

  • Changing the process of electing a First and Deputy First Minister. At present the First Minster is chosen by the biggest party. The DUP want the post chosen by the biggest party in the biggest designation, either nationalist or unionist. This would stop the race between them and Sinn Fein.
  • Moving to a voluntary coalition where cross-community votes would require a 65% majority and the present system of community designation of MLAs as nationalist, unionist or other would end.
  • Discussion among parties prior to d'Hondt being run so that a division of ministries could be agreed.
  • All-party commissions to tackle difficult issues.
  • More unanimous decisions in the Executive.
  • Reduction in number of Departments with, for instance, a single department to cover higher education and schools.
  • Maximum of 80 MLAs by 2015 instead of the current 108.

Belfast Telegraph