Monday 22 October 2018 03:15:08 AM

Armstrong Calls For Reform Of Petition Of Concern
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Alliance Strangford MLA Kellie Armstrong has called on the Secretary of State to legislate for reform of the petition of concern mechanism, to allow the restoration of the Assembly.

Kellie Armstrong has written to the Secretary of State calling for an end to the petition of concern.

Ms Armstrong said: “It was increasingly clear the current approach to the talks was not going to produce the foundation for the restoration of the Assembly.

“However, a reform of the veto mechanism meant issues such as an Irish Language Act and equal marriage could be debated on the Assembly floor instead of serving as blockages to the return of power-sharing.

“Alliance has consistently highlighted the existence of mutual vetoes, including how the abuse of the petition of concern has significantly contributed to the political deadlock.

Strangford MLA Kellie Armstrong.

“We have argued the petition needs radical reform to bring it back into line with the original spirit it was intended for in the Good Friday Agreement, which was to avoid discrimination against any particular section of the community.

“We have proposed the petition can only be used in the context of matters of national identity, legacy issues and matters relating to the constitutional structures of Northern Ireland.

“In the event of the October deadline being missed, it is vital the UK Government tries to change the nature of the ongoing discourse and to incentivise progress.

 “Therefore, Alliance is calling on the Secretary of State to directly legislate on petition of concern reform through Westminster and see if the Assembly can then be restored in that new context.

“Issues, such as an Irish Language Act and equal marriage, can then be addressed through open debate and decision-making on the floor of the Assembly.

“Alliance does not believe any party has anything to fear from this approach, with any outcome in the Assembly reflecting realistically proportional outcomes on all issues and echo the clear views of the people of Northern Ireland,”  added Kellie Armstrong.
Petition of Concern: 
This is a notice signed by at least 30 members and presented to the Speaker signifying concern about any forthcoming matter on which the Assembly is due to vote. The effects of a petition of concern are (a) that the vote on the matter may not be held until at least the day after the petition has been presented and (b) the vote will be on a cross-community basis, rather than simple majority. (NI Assembly website).