Wednesday, January 26, 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 drawn fierce opposition from four of the five executive 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 upcoming general election while remaining MP for Lagan Valley in Westminster.

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 said in a statement: “Plans to restore the dual job by allowing MPs to also become MLAs are unacceptable and must be scrapped.

“This is shameful interference in the forthcoming general election and a desperate attempt by Boris Johnson and Tory ministers in the NIO to facilitate Jeffrey Donaldson’s return to the Assembly and prop up the DUP.”

She called it “a major step backwards for politics here.”

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.

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