Dysfunctional? Or just incompetent?

Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker has called on the NI Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitriona Ruane, to apologise to the House after the minister failed to make a scheduled statement on her department’s programme of capital building schemes.  From the BBC report

The minister later explained she had mistakenly stayed in another meeting until 1033 BST, three minutes after she should have been addressing MLA’s.

She also failed to supply MLAs with a copy of her statement half an hour before she was due to deliver it as she is required to under standing orders.

The only member to receive a copy was the DUP’s Mervyn Storey who chairs the Assembly’s Education committee.

Mr Storey received a copy at 1020 BST. He described the minister as “amateurish”.

Meanwhile the DUP and Sinn Féin clashed after the DUP withdrew their support for a Bill intended to reform the Assembly’s expenses system.

According to the UTV PA report

DUP MLA Peter Weir said his party withdrew support for the passage of the Allowances to Members of the Assembly (Repeal) Bill at Stormont precisely because MLAs should not be voting on their salaries.

He claimed the result of passing Monday night’s legislation would have been a vote on a new allowances bill.

“Sinn Fein is sorely mistaken in believing that this Bill would have created an independent body,” he said.

“In fact, preventing this Bill from passing is the only position consistent with the principle Sinn Fein espouses but doesn’t seem to want to practise.”

But, as Mark Devenport points out on his blog, nothing in the Bill should have been a surprise to the DUP, or their representative on the Assembly Commision

The truly surprising aspect of this row is that the brief bill which had been due to get accelerated passage through the Assembly last night was the product of many months’ consideration by the Stormont commission (the cross party committee which runs the Assembly). The Commission backed a two stage process, first abolishing the current regime (with effect from September), then putting in place a new allowances scheme to be superintended by a new Independent Statutory Body.

It may be that the DUP has a point in arguing that this two stage process puts the cart before the horse, and the Independent Body should be set up immediately. But whey then did their representative on the Commission, Stephen Moutray, not make that argument at a much earlier stage in the proceedings? The explanatory notes to last night’s ill fated bill make it clear that the Commission “has given extensive consideration to a number of issues relating to the pay, pensions and expenditure of Members”. Its recommendations followed on from previous reports from the Senior Salaries Review Body and the courses of actions already taken by the Welsh assembly and the Scottish parliament.