Before the plenary session on Tuesday, two charities had arranged photo opportunities with MLAs to promote campaigns – one disability-related, the other fuel poverty. The UUP’s Michael Copeland was well prepared with his furry hat for the outside snaps.
He spoke to me about his long working hours and the volume of constituency work.
People say we [MLAs] need to be at a certain higher strategic level. My gut feeling is that this place needs to go back to its roots and the people who send us here.
He singled out work on Assembly committees as his biggest contributions. He pointed to the incomplete legislation from the last mandate (before the May 2011 election) which was left hanging. (Other MLAs explained that a change in Westminister legislation would be required to allow incomplete bills to pass over from one Assembly to the next.)
The middle letter in this is M L A – Legislative
Reflecting on the Assembly, he said:
To me it strikes me as a piece of drama … but whether or not it is fulfilling the democratic expectation. I don’t believe it’s government. It’s administration as it lacks the basic tenets of a government which is the ability or willingness to raise taxes properly and the right of the people to get rid of it after four years.
Would the Assembly mature?
It’ll grow older.
Edwin Poots made a ministerial statement on the publication of the Compton Review. I spoke briefly to him afterwards and he talked about the emphasis on care in the home.
Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan talked about his work at the Assembly.
Mervyn Storey spoke about the Education ministerial question session, Irish language translation costs, and his committees relationship with Education Minister.
Jim Allister was unhappy with the five week recess that is about to begin, and spoke about the lack of opposition and poor government.
The unionist – and indeed, DUP – interview frenzy was accidental on my part. Those MLAs just happened to be passing through the Great Hall when it was quiet and were vulnerable to a longer chat. The DUP had also mobilised a lot of their MLAs to attend the health statement early that morning. Maybe just as well the Speaker was unable to squeeze in an interview!