Much attention has been expended on the DUP use of Petition of Concerns (POC). Unsurprising since they’ve had a good run of appearances recently, including:
- the blocking of a bill for Rates Relief for Sports Clubs;
- (almost) every amendment to a welfare reform bill in February;
- a same sex Marriage bill in April;
- and it is expected another will emerge on the same issue later today.
After the April POC, a small number of party insiders furtively suggested to Slugger that the DUP have their MLAs “bulk sign” POCs to be used at the party’s discretion, reminiscent of those pre dated resignation letters.
So a couple of days after, I made a point of asking all their MLAs when they had signed that particular POC.
The only MLAs to respond directly were Nelson McCausland and Edwin Poots – both of whom were unable to recall when they had put their name to that form, just 7 days after its use.
Interestingly the POC which blocked the Rates Relief for Sports Clubs bill on the 21st of October, was signed by Emma Pengelly, who had been co-opted to replace Jimmy Spratt on September 28th, 23 days previously.
Here’s a copy of the signatory page…
Look closely at Pengelly’s signature. In the spot that alphabetically would have been Jimmy Spratt’s spot on the list there are distinct pen marks which are detached from Pengelly’s.
Spratt’s signature appears to have been tippexed out and oversigned…
It begs the question of what’s going on here? Is this another case of ‘we have your signature and you cannot dissent’? Can you as a DUP MLA even refuse to endorse a POC you may already have given up to the party whips?
This is the Petition of Concern to be used by the Democratic Unionist Party to block the Marriage Equality vote today.
The tippex is out once again…
Here we appear to have Arlene Foster’s name and signature removed…
In this one we can see that Jonathan Bell and Michelle McIlveen have been tippexed from the document…
And finally we have Simon Hamilton and Mervyn Storey’s signatures removed as well as Jimmy Spratt, which has been signed over the top by Emma Pengelly.
These errant pen marks which escaped the tippex pen can be compared to the signatures on the POC at the top of this article on Rates Relief for Sports Clubs.
Further evidence that MLAs are perhaps not aware of that which they are signing, that bulk signing POCs allows the party itself to enact an agenda without needing to directly address any issues that members may have with a bill.