Armstrong: We must unite in shelving Assembly recess this year

Alliance Chief Whip Kellie Armstrong MLA has asked other parties to back her suggestion for the Assembly to continue meeting over the summer.

Last month, the Strangford MLA made the formal request to Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey, with the matter due to be decided at this week’s Assembly Business Committee. The Assembly is due to take its summer recess from July 4 until September 6. During recess, all activities in Parliament Buildings is suspended, with no amendments to legislation tabled, MLAs unable to ask Ministers written or oral questions, and Committees scrutinising Ministerial or Departmental activities suspended.

“The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has affected every walk of our life and will likely continue to do so for some time to come,” said Ms Armstrong.

“There is therefore a need for the Assembly, and indeed our local Councils, to continue to meet regularly during the period where there would normally be recess, in order to respond quickly to emergency situations and help ease the pressure on individuals, families businesses and others from this crisis.

“There is no justification for taking a break from legislating during a national health and economic crisis. At a time when people will be being made redundant, having no provision of childcare to allow parents to return to work, and schools and businesses remain closed, politicians need to be working to deliver for citizens, not slowing the pace.

“There may well be issues around staffing due to workplace leave but with staggered holidays or a reduced rota, that is something which can be easily overcome. Most politicians and civil servants are in a privileged position where the jobs and salaries are broadly protected. It would be extremely inappropriate to take a back seat when others are potentially starting to return to work or reopening their businesses.

“The Assembly only returned after three years away in January. To pause legislating during this crisis, not to mention a rapidly approaching Brexit, would be indefensible. I am asking all other parties to back this call and show society we want to continue leading in the roles we were elected to.”