Sam McBride has a good overview of John McCallister’s proposals for new arrangements for an Opposition at Stormont:
Once an Opposition is formed, all MLAs not in the Executive are immediately classed as members of the Opposition.
The Opposition will be led by a leader and deputy leader, who would be chosen by Opposition MLAs and who would get the first questions to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister at Assembly question time, moving the Assembly slightly closer to what happens in Prime Minister’s Questions.
The Opposition would have the right to a minimum of 15 days a year for business in the Assembly, would get to chair the powerful Public Accounts Committee (as happens at Westminster) and would be represented on the Assembly’s Business Committee, which decides on the Assembly’s Order Paper each week.
Opposition parties would be entitled to financial assistance, including salaries for Opposition office holders.
A Budget Committee would be created to scrutinise the Executive’s draft budget.
The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister would be renamed as the Office of the First Ministers.
Interesting detail is the provision to make all departments “a single legal entity, making it impossible for ministers to sue each other in the courts”. Yep, that matters because, yes, a minister has sued another minister just to force them to do their job properly.
And it also shows demonstrates that frustrations within government has nowhere to go if you cannot viably ditch your government status. But therein lies the weakness of these provisions (though in selling it to nationalists it could prove a strength).
You still not cannot get rid of someone who insists on clinging to office come what may (no matter how bad or unreliable they prove to be)… But it could be the starting opportunity for a viable resistance…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty
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