Assembly watchdog pessimistic about deal
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