Lyttle calls for formal petition process

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle has called on the Assembly to establish a formal petition process to allow the public easier access to local politicians on issues of importance.

The East Belfast representative made the call for the scheme, used in other regional assemblies around the UK, as a cross-party delegation submitted a petition from the WAVE Trauma Centre yesterday (Monday) to the Assembly speaker. The document calls for greater recognition and services for those injured or bereaved as a result of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Mr Lyttle has written to Speaker Willie Hay to request the introduction of a formal process, saying its usage in other administrations were proof of how well the mechanism works.

“At a time when the electorate feel disconnected from the status quo, this is an ideal way to introduce reform that will reconnect people to the Assembly and allow them to re-engage with the political process.

“Currently, MLAs have the right to present petitions to the Assembly via standing orders. However, the devolved legislatures in Scotland and Wales have more formalised procedures, while Westminster introduced an e-petitions website and Dail Eireann last year established a Committee on Investigations, Oversight and Petitions.

“It is therefore vital the Assembly is not left behind when it comes to offering citizens an effective place in the democratic process.”

Mr Lyttle said stories in last week’s media regarding the public’s lack of confidence in many parts of the Stormont institution showed how important the issue was.

“This would afford members of the public a chance to be on the frontline when it comes to scrutinising MLAs, changing the law and being part of policy reviews. It could even go as far as the Assembly affording relevant petitioners the opportunity to give evidence to the relevant committee regarding their submission.

“I have experienced first-hand the lack of clarity around the current system and believe a more formal process has the potential to contribute to inclusive, participatory democracy and help tackle voter decline in Northern Ireland.”


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