Opposition welcomes Speaker’s ruling on accountability

mark h durkan accountability Communiites

SDLP Opposition MLAs have pressed the Communities Minister to drop a practice of ducking and diving questions about by referring elected representatives to generic email addresses for public bodies rather than answering legitimate questions himself.

Mark H Durkan MLA and Cara Hunter MLA raised Gordon Lyons aversion to scrutiny in the Assembly today and were backed by a ruling from the Speaker reminding Ministers they must answer questions.

Mark H Durkan MLA said:

“I have been astounded by the Communities Minister’s appalling approach to accountability and scrutiny. To date he has point blank refused to answer at least 78 questions on housing, homelessness and waiting list figures representing serious concerns about Executive performance and the pressure that ordinary people are living under. It’s an insult not just to Assembly Members trying to get answers but to the thousands of people who are on waiting lists and desperately need action.

“I was deeply unimpressed by Gordon Lyons’ approach to these questions and his response in the Assembly today when he outlined that he had no intention of reviewing his position. I am grateful, therefore, for the ruling of Speaker Edwin Poots outlining that Ministers must answer questions and that it is not in order to simply tell MLAs to email someone else.

“We’re in the absurd position at the moment where Ministers are tripping over themselves to claim good news stories but refusing to front up to tough questions about the stark positions that many people find themselves in. They can’t have it both ways.

“The Opposition will be seeking to maximise accountability for Executive Ministers in this term of government. That will be uncomfortable for some but it is a key part of our job and we will force the issue where necessary. I look forward to a change in position from the Communities Minister and to working constructively to address issues in housing, homelessness and other issues of direct importance to people across Northern Ireland.”

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