McNarry calls for major change to use of petitions of concern.
David McNarry MLA, UKIP Leader in Northern Ireland, has said :
“The repeated abusive use of Stormont ‘Petition of Concern’ voting mechanism as illustrated in the recent Welfare Reform Bill vote needs to be modernised to suit the proper functional working of a mature Northern Ireland Assembly.
Filibustering is one acceptable parliamentary procedure, so too is operating party pacts on votes. However, the petition of concern is outdated and well past its sell by date. It has become a weapon of recrimination and division. It is being used as a mechanism to hide behind and distort the real reflection of majority opinion.
Last year (Jan 2014) there was an Executive Review Committee charged to report to the Secretary of State on reviewing the Petition of Concern. Needless to say after compiling a 230 page report – no agreement was reached to replace the use of Petitions of Concern.
The Executive parties need to take a long hard look at themselves and grow up. They need to overcome the fear factor of losing a vote. They need to have confidence in their ability to cope with set-backs. They need to improve the quality of debate rather than rely on a tribal party headcount to vote through an issue.
Stormont will remain stuck in the antiquated cells of strength of numbers instead of strong convincing arguments, so long as the use of petitions of concern are allowed to be used without question.
A better way would be to vote on the acceptance of a petition of concern before it is introduced. We should hear the case for the petition and judge on its merit. Or we could increase the number of signatures required to table a petition. Otherwise we scrap it all together and move for a weighted majority vote of 65%. As it stands the abuse of petitions of concern is a curse on democratic proceedings.”