Tuesday 8 March 2011

Kill Bill and The Petition of Concern

Due to Northern Ireland's historic failure to treat the minority community equitably, when negotiations were taking place to establish our current powersharing arrangements, it was agreed that the Assembly's rules would include a mechanism called the Petition of Concern.

The Petition of Concern ensures that legislation can't be passed without a majority of nationalists and unionists agreeing. The idea was that this would only be used in rare occasions and mostly over contentious sectarian issues.

This week the DUP (a unionist party) triggered a Petition of Concern (POC) over a piece of legislation at its final stage sponsored by an independent unionist. The new law would have prevented anyone holding office in the Northern Ireland Assembly as well as on a District Council. Its been labelled double-jobbing and is detested by the electorate. It means that significant amounts of power and privilege is concentrated in the hands of very few people.

Currently 31 out of 35 DUP MLAs also hold positions of District Councillors. They couldnt get their amendments adopted so they used the POC to achieve their aims.
It is a tragedy for our fledgling democracy and does not auger well for the future.


Stephen Blacker said...

This is a superb post and very well explained, it is just a pity the DUP dont understand this Good Friday Agreement clause, saying that it is more likely that they do understand it but with 31 being registered as double, treble and quadruple jobbing it suits to abuse democracy by using Petition of Concern. The conflict of interest here is mind-blowing and it is a total disgrace that technically they are doing nothing wrong according to the wording of the GFA.

During the debate Peter Weir said on three ocassions, "Let the people decide" and once he said "the people's voice is sovereign" but the actions of his party denied the people their voice with a veto on a democratically argued Bill that had achieved cross community and cross party support during all 6 stages in the Stormont Chamber.

When a party uses a veto it shows them as political cowards who have no faith in the power of their argument. This along with the fact that the DUP amendments failed to get support at every turn so the self righteous ego's of the DUP horde would not let them except the will of the people so the only option this unprincipled party had was Petition of Concern.

The response of the DUP after this Bill was killed was one of "so what" this proves that their blind arrogance shows me they are ignorant to the fact that they are self serving and unethical.

The Alliance party were a major disappointment because they continued to oppose this Bill ever after a Petition of Concern was tabled, they did express their concerns but with no way to lose they should have withdrew from their support for the DUP in protest at the use of Petition of Concern.

Dawn Purvis and the MLA's that challenged the DUP can hold their heads high but it leaves all issues and Bills at the mercy of this Dictatoral Unionist Party and that should be a worry to all society, I cannot understand why the media is not jumping all over the DUP on this because it amounts to defecating on Stormont and all it stands for.

I will finish with a Biblical context to this issue for the benefit to the God fearing DUP follower and I think it sums up this disgraceful action quite well - "It took 30 pieces of silver for Judas to betray Jesus and it took 30 DUP MLA's to betray democracy."