Reform of petition of concern would be major step towards equality, says Long

The new Assembly term will finally see major steps taken towards equality and accountability if the petition of concern mechanism is reformed, Alliance Leader Naomi Long has said.

Mrs Long said the veto was the main reason the likes of equal marriage had not yet passed into legislation here, as well as fostering an atmosphere of “distrust” with the public towards the institutions.

“Last May, during negotiations around the Justice Ministry, Alliance made a series of proposals to Sinn Fein and the DUP. One of those was reform of the petition of concern mechanism. It would have seen the tool reverted to what it was originally intended for – the protection of minority rights.

“However, both parties rejected that idea. Those same two parties also stated the issue would be addressed under the so-called Fresh Start deal, but that was not the case. Neither expended an ounce of political capital on getting the issue resolved.

“In the last term alone, the petition was used to block a motion of no confidence in the Assembly Speaker, which was a further display of the arrogance and disrespect which showcased much of the mandate, and which allowed him to cling to office despite the majority of MLAs and the public wishing to see him step aside.

“The abuse of that veto power has led to many of the issues which directly contributed to the collapse of the Assembly, as well as seeing Northern Ireland lag behind on a number of equality issues. We need to get it back to its original intent and away from what it has become, which is used and abused to protect parties’ selfish interests.”

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