John McCallister: My Opposition Bill is now law, paving way for normal politics

John McCallister MLA. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
John McCallister MLA. Picture By: Arthur Allison.

I am delighted to announce that I received confirmation today that my Opposition Bill has received Royal Assent and has become law.

It will be known as the Assembly and Executive Reform (Assembly Opposition) Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (chapter 10).

It is wonderful news to come a week before Stormont dissolves as the mechanisms for an opposition to exist will be in place by the new mandate.

It presents a marvellous opportunity for Northern Ireland to nudge towards more normal politics.

During the election period and after, the Bill becoming an Act is extremely important for Northern Ireland.

All Parties will have a real decision to make on whether or not to go into government and agree a Programme for Government.

The narrative that there is no such place as opposition is now defunct, and the automatic assumption that parties are compelled to join the executive, no longer exists.

All parties should now be setting out what their red line policy issues are, with regards Programme for Government negotiations.

The public has a right to know which policies each party must have in the Programme for Government for them to join the executive.

This is normal politics and this is what the Opposition Act offers.

This provides real choice for the public and poses real and difficult decisions for the political parties and that is what real politics is about.

An opposition also offers additional scrutiny, accountability and a government in waiting .

These things should not be underestimated.

• John McCallister MLA is an independent unionist MLA for South Down