“It is the politics of self-interest, exclusion, and fear…”

Less than a week after MLAs Basil McCrea and John McCallister announced the launch of their new party, NI21, and the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Business Committee has changed the number of MLAs a party requires to be eligible for a first round place in the order of party speaking rights in the assembly.   A change that affects only the newly formed party…  [“Meetings of the Committee are held in private” – Ed]  From the BBC report

From 2006, parties with two or more MLAs would be called to speak in the first round of assembly debates.

However, it is understood the Stormont business committee met on Monday and voted to change the system so that in future, parties will have to have five or more members to be called in the first round.

It means that instead of being called to speak sixth, NI21 will now be relegated to 12th position.

The change is on an “interim” basis but, in a letter to Mr McCrea, the Speaker William Hay said the assembly’s committee on procedures is being asked to “consider issues relating to the emergence of new political parties or groupings during a mandate including speaking rights”.

Mr McCrea said: “It would appear that some political parties have ganged up to prevent alternative voices being heard. This is old 20th Century politics at its worst. It is the politics of self-interest, exclusion, and fear.

“What are they so worried about? Why do they feel the need to change a rule that has gone unchallenged since 2006? They are frightened of any opposition, any alternative view and anybody who is prepared to speak out.”

The MLAs who sit on the NI Assembly’s Business Committee are listed here.