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Stormont ministers plan 'staycations' but Executive to still sit during recess

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Silent Valley in the Mournes. Picture: Tourism Ireland

Silent Valley in the Mournes. Picture: Tourism Ireland

Silent Valley in the Mournes. Picture: Tourism Ireland

STORMONT ministers plan to take holidays despite the ongoing Covid-19 crisis - but hope Executive meetings can continue.

And most are in favour of the break being taken by Assembly members, revealed in Sunday Life last week, which began on Saturday.

Now it has emerged Alliance proposed there should be no recess this year because of the virus and the looming barrage of Brexit legislation but other parties did not agree.

Party leader Naomi Long told us: "Whilst our preference would have been to work through July and August, given the context with the recovery from Covid-19 and Brexit coming ever closer, at least the flexibility is there to re-engage the Assembly as and when required."

The justice minister, who took a few days in Donegal over the Twelfth and is to 'staycation' locally at the end of this month, added: "We proposed not taking a recess this year at the Business Committee, which decides what the Assembly debates, but that was not agreed.

"However, in the end parties agreed to take a recess in August to facilitate Assembly staff taking annual leave. The Assembly can be recalled for urgent business.

"The Executive will continue to meet in August and there is an ad hoc committee which can be requested to meet by any minister wishing to make a statement to the Assembly."

Agriculture and Environment Minister Edwin Poots believes MLAs deserve a break because of the amount of Brexit-linked work they will be facing.

The DUP man, who is not taking a holiday this year, said: "They should take a recess in August as there will be a very intense period for the legislature with a mass of bills associated with Brexit.

"These will likely lead to extra and longer sittings aside from the constituency workload."

Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy will also be taking a 'staycation' in Ireland during August but remains in touch with his office.

"He will be available at all times for urgent Executive business, including Executive meetings," a spokesperson said.

SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon backs the continuation of Executive meetings during the recess but plans two weeks holiday herself.

"Minister Mallon is taking two weeks leave to be with her husband and three young children - spending one week at home and the other week in a holiday letting in the South," a spokesperson confirmed.

"She recognises that public service is not just a job and believes that especially at this time, the public needs leadership, consistent and constant communication and guidance.

"Covid-19 does not stop for summer holidays and nor should the Executive. She supports the continuation of Executive meetings during the recess period."

A number of others, including Economy Minister Diane Dodds, did not respond to inquiries about their personal and family plans.

But the man most regard as the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Jim Allister, did confirm he plans to take a holiday "in the United Kingdom".

"Jim has no plans to travel outside the country this year," a spokesperson said.

Belfast Telegraph