Sunday, January 16, 2022

Plans for temporary return of ‘dual job’ for NI politicians condemned

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A government plan to temporarily restore dual employment for Northern Ireland politicians has sparked fierce opposition from some political parties.

The UK government has been criticized over plans to allow MPs to keep their seats in Westminster while they are elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The return of the “dual mandate” or dual job would allow DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to contest the forthcoming general election while remaining in Westminster as MP for the Lagan Valley.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill on Saturday accused the UK government of meddling in the general election, while Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie accused the Northern Ireland office of effectively backing the DUP campaign.

The details of the move are set out in a letter to Members of the House of Lords from the Junior Minister for the Northern Ireland Office, Lord Caine.

Double mandates would only return until the next UK general election in 2024.

The current law, which bans politicians from dual employment as MLAs and MPs, went into effect in 2016.

The letter, seen by the PA news agency, says the aim of the rule change is to avoid triggering by-elections in Northern Ireland.

In the letter, Lord Caine said: “There is no desire or consensus in Northern Ireland to continue dual mandates indefinitely or to return to a situation where the overwhelming majority of MPs from Northern Ireland were also Members of the Assembly.”

He told colleagues that the UK government’s “aim” is to support the functioning of the Assembly by “providing stability in cases where Northern Ireland parties need to reconfigure their representation in Parliament and Stormont, without parliamentary ones.” trigger by-elections”. .

The UK government, Lord Caine said, plans to table an amendment amending the Dual Mandate Act in the coming weeks.

It is part of a series of measures already passed by the House of Commons aimed at solidifying power-sharing in Northern Ireland following the return of the executive in early 2020.

However, plans to restore the dual mandate have already been controversial and have drawn criticism from some parties in Northern Ireland.

Ms O’Neill called it “blatant and shameful interference in the general election” in a tweet on Saturday.

Mr Beattie tweeted on Saturday: “The fact that NIO is now directly supporting the DUP campaign means they are not a neutral department.”

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long called it a “serious step backwards”.

She tweeted: “I staked my own political future on ending double jobbing in 2010 when I left the Council and Assembly to concentrate on representing my constituents in Westminster. I managed to enforce the double-job ban.”

“Other parties promised to act but only did so when forced to do so by law in 2014.

“I was both an MP and an MLA: you can’t do both jobs right in the long run.

“The ban was the subject of widespread consultation: this reversal was not.

“Pretty obvious why it’s being done.”

SDLP MP Claire Hanna tweeted: “Being an MP is a full-time job, and more so, as is MLA.

“People deserve representation at both levels and dual mandates have been abolished for good reason. NIO should not facilitate DUP threats and gambling with decentralization.”

Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister called the plan a “shameless solution.”

“The final roll of the dice for some,” he tweeted.

“Double mandates have been abolished for good reason. This reason has not changed. Only the desperation of the DUP has changed. What price did the DUP pay for it?”

There had been much speculation in political circles as to how and when Sir Jeffrey would return to local politics in Northern Ireland as an MLA following his election as party leader.

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