| 9°C Belfast

Why can't I get answers? Jim Allister in Assembly questions challenge


Jim Allister

Jim Allister

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Jim Allister

JIM Allister has challenged the First and deputy First Ministers to explain why almost 40 Assembly questions he submitted to them in the last year remain unanswered.

According to Stormont procedure, MLAs should expect an answer to their questions within 10 days. A priority question could be dealt with in less than five days.

However, dozens of questions submitted by the TUV leader have been ignored by Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill.

Some of the answers the North Antrim MLA is still waiting on centre around the attendance of the Deputy First Minister at the funeral of leading republican Bobby Storey last June.

He asked whether Ms O'Neill, in respect of the coronavirus restrictions in place at the time, followed the rule of law, what her official duties were for the day of Mr Storey's funeral and whether she and her party colleague, Junior Minister Declan Kearney, travelled to and from the funeral in an official Executive car.

Mr Allister should have received his reply to these questions by July 21 last year, but these and other questions he submitted on a range of other topics - such as the amount the Executive Office spent on Irish language material over the past three years and updates on the Troubles Pension - remain unanswered.

Mr Allister has even submitted follow-up questions, asking when his questions will be answered, but these too have been ignored.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Allister said he is not alone in waiting for answers.

He said: "I have heard many other MLAs complaining that they haven't had questions answered and I have seen questions from them asking why their questions not been answered.

"Some of the questions I submitted date back to last February but my understanding is that when a question goes in, the relevant civil servant will compose an answer and that answer will then be put on the minister's desk for signature.

"From what I am told, the problem is not the Civil Service - the answers are being drafted but the Ministers aren't signing them off.

"I have a sheaf of questions to Robin Swann unanswered with queries mostly related to Covid, but most of the Departments are the same. The Departments for Infrastructure and Justice are best at responding but the rest are very tardy indeed."

However, last night Mr Allister said that, having raised concerns this week, answers to several questions submitted in April had suddenly been issued.

The Executive Office was asked about the non-responses to Mr Allister's questions.

However, no one responded to our queries.

Belfast Telegraph