As­sem­bly watch­dog pes­simistic about deal

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY STAFF RE­PORTER

OUT­GO­ING Stor­mont stan­dards watch­dog Dou­glas Bain gave a crush­ing as­sess­ment of hopes for a restora­tion of de­volved gov­ern­ment in North­ern Ire­land last night.

Speak­ing on BBC Ra­dio Ul­ster Mr Bain, the As­sem­bly’s Com­mis­sioner for Stan­dards, was asked if he thought Stor­mont would be com­ing back “any­time soon”.

“Who knows?” he said wearily. “It’s been a long time since it did any­thing use­ful.”

Although Mr Bain steps down this week from his role, no suc­ces­sor has been ap­pointed be­cause of the ab­sence of a func­tion­ing Ex­ec­u­tive or a for­malised di­rect rule ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Mr Bain told in­ter­viewer Mark Deven­port that the Stor­mont sit­u­a­tion was be­com­ing “in­tol­er­a­ble”.

“We are in the ridicu­lous sit­u­a­tion that from Mon­day morn­ing of next week — although MLAs are con­tin­u­ing to re­ceive their full pay and al­lowances, and com­plaints are still be­ing made about their con­duct — there will be ab­so­lutely no one to look into those com­plaints, far less any­one to im­pose any sanc­tions on an MLA who has breached the rules.

“Most right-think­ing peo­ple will agree that the po­si­tion is be­com­ing in­tol­er­a­ble.”

In a wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, Mr Bain also made clear his con­cerns about the As­sem­bly’s pe­ti­tion of con­cern pro­ce­dure, by which a pro­posal be­fore the As­sem­bly can only be car­ried with the sup­port of a ma­jor­ity of both na­tion­al­ist and union­ist MLAs, rather than a sim­ple nu­mer­i­cal ma­jor­ity.

“I think there should be an ab­so­lute pro­hi­bi­tion on the pe­ti­tion of con­cern be­ing used in re­la­tion to com­plaints is­sues,” he said.

“Whether an MLA has breached the code of con­duct or not is a mat­ter which should be de­cided on its mer­its.

“When an MLA has, an ap­pro­pri­ate sanc­tion should be im­posed.

“But we have seen the pe­ti­tion of con­cern used to pre­vent the im­po­si­tion of any sanc­tion, even though I had found that the MLA had breached the code, and the As­sem­bly com­mit­tee on stan­dards and priv­i­leges agreed with that de­ci­sion.”

Stand­ing down: Dou­glas Bain

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