UUP & SDLP unite to attack clamp down on opposition speaking rights

Alex Attwood and Robin Swann conducted the first act of co-ordination between the UUP and SDLP as the official opposition in the Assembly today over the DUP and Sinn Fein’s attempts to change rules around when the opposition can lead debates.

Speaking jointly both MLAs said;

In key votes on Assembly business, the DUP and Sinn Féin have shown both their arrogance and their fear, with a slap in the face for our democracy.

“In March, the five parties on the Business Committee of the Assembly unanimously agreed there would be provision for debates led by the opposition, if a party or parties chose not to go into the Executive. Now after only two opposition debates, the DUP and Sinn Féin today railroaded through a change, replacing opposition motions every second week with opposition days every so often.

“It was a calculated attempt to close down the voice of opposition. In refusing at the Business Committee to offer any good argument for the decision, the DUP and Sinn Féin proved it was all about their weight of numbers not about the health of our democracy.

“These actions show both their arrogance and their fear. Both Sinn Féin and the DUP look and sound rattled. The proof is that two opposition debates over two days was two too many for them.

“It is not the first time that the DUP and Sinn Féin have been at their work. When we proposed two weeks ago to give the Green Party and People Before Profit earlier speaking rights in the Assembly, the DUP and Sinn Féin rushed in and pushed the smaller parties to the back of the queue.

“They also refused to allow the opposition parties to take up their seats in the Chamber facing the Executive as many expected would be the case, yet afforded the new Justice Minister a move onto the front bench.

“The DUP and Sinn Féin say they won the election. Their antics demonstrate that in playing fast and loose with good decisions and on democracy, how rattled they are. Democracy is much bigger than those who so clearly fear opposition and scrutiny.”

Odd move by the DUP and Sinn Fein, since we were constantly told how inept and ineffective the new opposition would be, surely they would have wanted more speaking time in the chamber for them to demonstrate this.  Anyway, looks like the new politics, is not that much different from the old and that our new official opposition will more than likely have to find more ways outside of the Assembly Chamber to hold the DUP/Sinn Fein Executive to account for their actions.

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

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