The Irish News reports that a basket of reform proposals have been withheld from public view because there are no ministers to sign them off. This is height of exquisite absurdity. Here we have material for the agenda for the renewed party talks to get their teeth into. Once these papers have been presented to the parties to consider for a week or two, ( if they haven’t been already), they should be signalled for early publication by the supervising authority of the British government, no doubt supported by Dublin and most if not all of the minority parties. If however the DUP and Sinn Fein were to pledge to action them in some form as part of a new agreement package, there could be a delay until that point is reached.
Last year The Irish News revealed at least 19 completed reports are being withheld from publication because departmental officials say they need ministers to sign-off their release.
However, at least 10 have been released even though staff admit they would normally require ministerial approval to publish them.
When asked for a copy of their policy on how these decisions are made, Stormont departments confirmed that no such policy exists.
The unpublished reports include a high-profile paper on the north’s abortion laws, completed over a year ago.
An Executive Office spokesman said: “The Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition was established as part of the Fresh Start Agreement. The report is not yet completed.
“It will be for ministers to consider its findings and agree publication arrangements.”
A FICT spokeswoman said: “No decisions have been taken in relation to the processes around approval and publication of the commission’s report.”
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London