Stormont Executive’s refusal to allow MLAs to debate NI’s covid restrictions ‘scandalous and reprehensible’
Several of the tiny number of opposition MLAs have criticised the Executive for its “scandalous” refusal to allow the Assembly to debate and vote on its coronavirus restrictions until Monday – four days before the four weeks of restrictions end.
The law which has seen hospitality businesses closed for four weeks and schools closed for two weeks and a host of other activities banned was signed into law by Executive ministers on October 16 but they have chosen not to allow the Assembly to debate it until Monday.
TUV leader Jim Allister said: “When we last debated the [previous] regulations in the Assembly I made the point that there was something inherently farcical about the debate, in that we were debating amendments to regulations which had been overwhelmingly superseded by events.
“At that time the regulations dated from a time when the Executive were telling us that hospitality venues were safe but your home was not. Therefore, you could meet your granny in the pub but not in your home.
“That was the genesis of the regulations that we were then debating. To make places of hospitality safe, their owners, with great diligence in most cases, spent thousands of pounds on taking the steps that the Executive required of them, only to have all of that pulled away.
“The lack of scrutiny of laws which take away fundamental rights and freedoms is scandalous and needs to change.”
People before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll, another vocal critic of the Executive’s competence and direction, told the News Letter: “It is reprehensible that MLAs like myself, who are elected to represent our communities, are denied oversight of incredibly important Covid legislation and regulations before they are implemented.
“This approach is clearly reflective of the wider political carve-up by Sinn Féin and the DUP, where every issue is hashed out behind closed doors before basic scrutiny can be applied.
“In the middle of a health pandemic, where weekly decisions have an impact on our lives and livelihoods, this kind of dismissive attitude towards scrutiny is more reckless and unacceptable than ever.”
Green Party MLA Rachel Woods said: “The Executive must formulate a clear plan for dealing with this pandemic. This second wave has been marked by a lack of clarity, consistency and coherence in the Executive’s decision making.
“It’s right that MLAs should scrutinise the Covid provisions in a timely way – it’s about ensuring that we have appropriate and effective measures in place to curb the spread of the virus.”
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