Alliance Party Leader David Ford has called for the urgent restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly, as he dismissed the outcome of the Review of Public Administration as unworkable. He described the plans as an ill thought-out menu for repartition and a blatant tribal hand-out to Sinn Féin.
Mr Ford stated: “This was supposed to be a well-thought out, strategic review of public administration for a generation. In fact, competing interests were battling over this announcement until almost the last minute. It does not make sense for either major regional services like health or for local accountability.
“The result is a set of proposals which are simply unsustainable, which effectively re-partition this region, and which are a blatant political buy-off of Sinn Féin. I would have thought the future governance of all the citizens of Northern Ireland was too important for perverse political stunts, but it appears not.
“Seven councils with limited powers are simply unworkable. Far from reducing bureaucracy, the result will be yet another layer of ‘quangos’. They will have to make up for the lack of relationship between a limited number of democratic representatives and their constituents by introducing still more faceless administrators. This is precisely the reverse of the purpose of this review.
“These arrangements will also see the repartition of Northern Ireland, into three green councils in the west and three orange councils in the east. This places a sizeable proportion of the population in areas over which they can never hope to have a fair degree of influence.
“This is a blatant buy-off of Sinn Féin, the only local party to support the seven-council model. Even most of its representatives have admitted on record, through NILGA and elsewhere, that these proposals cannot be sustained. This sort of ‘tribal hand-out’ mentality will be damaging for everyone in the long term, as it serves only to drive people further apart, increasing feelings of fear and alienation among new minority communities.
“Most of the powers being given to Councils would in fact be perfectly applicable to a 15 Council model. This would make Councils much more representative of meaningful local communities and would bring community planning, which is an essential part of any modernisation, much closer to the people.
“What this proves above all is the need to get our direct misrulers out of Northern Ireland. We must bring back accountable democracy to the people through the restoration of devolution to the Assembly urgently. Local administration will be the only way to ensure all Northern Ireland’s citizens have access to fair, accountable and appropriate structures of