DUP MLAs should back Doug Beattie’s bid today to stop constraints on Stormont ministers being weakened — a reform that would never be reversed

Today MLAs will have an opportunity to vote on an amendment to a crucial piece of legislation that will have far reaching consequences.

By Editorial
Monday, 27th July 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 27th July 2020, 8:46 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

It is essential that DUP back that amendment.

It has become clear that, from a unionist perspective, a grave error has been made with regard to the Executive Committee (Functions) Bill.

Among the consequences of the bill, which if it passes today will only need Royal Assent tomorrow to become law, are to make it easier for ministers to make decisions within their own departments that have wider ramifications for Northern Ireland as a whole, without approval of other ministers.

The DUP will understand what a completely unacceptable prospect that is, because after the long period of suspended devolution after 2002 (due to disgraceful conduct by republicans, post 1998) it sought in the 2006 St Andrews negotiations to constrain ministers, so that they would not be able to make major decisions with consequences that cut across departments. It was Sinn Fein above all who were likely to do that.

This protection is about to be watered down.

There is not enough room here to recap on the flaws in the DUP position in defence of the bill, but the web version of this article will link to Richard Bullick’s News Letter article last week, taking apart the DUP claims (see link below). Yesterday he put out a further article on Twitter, rebutting DUP counter claims in defence of the bill.

All of the party’s MLAs should read that article this morning, if they have not done so already.

What is about to be passed will never be reversed.

While a u-turn might be embarrassing for the DUP, proceeding will be far worse, and those who pass such far reaching legislation, with a permanent impact, will be answerable for that.

There is an escape route, which is to back Doug Beattie’s amendment, which delays the worst of the bill. All DUP MLAs should be doing just that today to avert potential disaster.

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Alistair Bushe