“both a significant and controversial matter..”

The first video from StormontLive in this post starts with BBC NI political editor, Mark Devenport, telling us what his anonymous sources have told him, but it’s worth listening closely to Assembly Speaker, the DUP’s William Hay, notifying the Assembly of the Northern Ireland Executive’s decision on an Alliance Party ‘petition of concern’ [inspired request to ask the Speaker to raise an issue with the Executive] about the former Environment Minister’s apparent decision to reject the recommended independent Environmental Protection Agency. That ‘decision’ is referred to as a ‘statement’ in the Executive’s letter to the Speaker, which also notes that “the issue of environmental governance is both a significant and controversial matter” [approx 3mins 30secs in]. Despite the Executive effectively ignoring the ‘petition of concern’ about that statement the new Environment Minister, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, will now have to seek “a specific approval under the relevant provisions under the Northern Ireland Act and the ministerial code” for “any matters relating to the implementation of the former minister’s statement”. But being “significant and controversial”, before making that statement, shouldn’t the former Environment Minister have brought the matter to the NI Executive Committee first? [2.4 (v)]
The Alliance Party’s Stephen Farry and Sinn Féin’s Cahal Boylan discuss the ‘petition of concern’ and the Executive’s letter.

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  • Comrade Stalin

    Pathetic, utterly pathetic. Not only are Sinn Fein a disaster at pushing through their own manifesto, they can’t even work up the courage to support a matter on the executive which is supported by the two smaller executive parties! What a waste of time.

    This is why we need voluntary coalition. Not to exclude Sinn Fein because they’re taigs, but to exclude them because they’re utterly hopeless at governing.

  • Comrade,

    In the first place it would seem that the Executive, when pushed, has had to agree that Arlene actually breached the Ministerial Code in making he statement.

    Embarrassing for her, although hardly fatal. Not least since SF Ministers only have the negative power to sustain the status quo. She gets a slap across the fingers (that no one in either the chamber or the press gallery seemed to recognise).

  • The Farry/Boylan exchange is well worth watching. In that it precisely demonstrates the weakness of the minority view within the Executive.

    Mr Boylan’s line that they are waiting for an all island EP is a particularly interesting line of defence.

  • David Ford

    Strictly, Pete, this was not a ‘Petition of Concern’, but a petition of thirty members asking the Speaker to raise an issue with the Executive. And it wasn’t just an Alliance issue, though we initiated it, as we had the signatures of UUP, SDLP and PUP members in addition to the nine United Community MLAs.

    On the key point, Comrade S is right. Despite SF having an EPA in their manifesto, and SF MLAs having enthusiastically supported the call for an independent EPA put forward by Brian Wilson and me last year, SF Ministers did nothing to upset their partners in the voluntary coalition within the mandatory coalition. Yet another occasion in which SF has let down those who looked to it for change.

    The defensiveness of SF is well shown by Cahal Boylan’s attack on me for not being in the studio, though I had told the BBC that I was busy. In fact, it was Stephen who remembered the obscure provision in St Andrews that allowed us to submit the petition and he was quite capable of dealing with the issue.

  • Pete Baker

    “Strictly, Pete, this was not a ‘Petition of Concern’, but a petition of thirty members asking the Speaker to raise an issue with the Executive. And it wasn’t just an Alliance issue, though we initiated it, as we had the signatures of UUP, SDLP and PUP members in addition to the nine United Community MLAs.”

    My apologies if I created some confusion on that, David.

    The detail was in the recorded video.

    I’ve amended the introductory text to reflect that fact.

  • Comrade Stalin

    In the first place it would seem that the Executive, when pushed, has had to agree that Arlene actually breached the Ministerial Code in making he statement.

    As you say Mick, hardly fatal. It’s not like it’s the first time!

    David, I agree that Boylan’s stab was ridiculous. Boylan squirmed during that whole interview.

  • Peat Blog

    Seems like a non-manmade global warming storm in a teacup.

    Everything will be fine in the end, don’t you know: EHS has a new logo and Agent Orange has his finger on the button…

  • EPANOW

    I am disgusted that the Alliance has tried to turn this issue into a political football to kick the Executive with as Stephen Farry’s contribution indicates. The reality is that the Executive CANNOT overturn a decision on the EPA as a decision wasnt made on that particular issue. I suspect that Sinn Féin didnt sign the petition as they saw that it was an effort by David Ford to attack the Executive rather than the DUP, the Environmental groups who fell for this should research what the Executive can and cannot do in this case rather than just taking David Ford’s word for it.

  • Barney

    Looks like David Ford has skilfully turned this issue into one which to attack the Executive and reinforce the Alliance’s position as an ‘effective’ opposition. The SDLP and UUP probably didnt even read the petition before signing it. There was no point referring it to the Executive as the Executive cannot run Ministers’ departments for them, otherwise there wouldn’t be seperate Ministers from different parties, thered be no point!

    Theres no decision on an EPA to overturn so how can the Executive overturn it? I’m surprised Friends of the Earth and NIEL fell for this Alliance stunt, Farry clearly blamed it on the form of government we have – unfortunately we can’t have his utopian alternative where the Alliance can overturn every decision Ministers make but hey thats because other parties have mandates and thats the reality that the Alliance party gladly ignore.

    The NGOs should have got their facts straight before letting the Alliance lead them up the garden path on this one. From what i hear Conor Murphy put the SF line on an EPA across at the Executive but he and the other SF Ministers didn’t have the power to overturn it! If the Alliance and David Ford staged a coup d’etat then perhaps we could get an EPA, otherwise its wait until 2011. I suspect the Alliance knew all this before they drew up their petition.

  • Back to majority rule

    Farry said powersharing has failed because the majority of the Executive parties support an EPA and can’t get one – is he seriously advocating a return to majority rule?? I think the Alliance just say the opposite to what the Executive says and does just for the sake of it and this is a terrible example of it.