Underhanded Use of Petition of Concern

A reader has written the following:
Over the past months you have been trying to get the public more interested in politics in Northern Ireland. This is a super idea because politics shapes our everyday life and the more people get involved the better we can collectively run the country.
There are a lot of issues that have not been going well like the Water crisis and the Budget but the single worst totally undemocratic action by any party is the activating of “Petition of Concern” by the DUP on the Local Government (Disqualification) Bill.
This was not what this clause was meant for and it was disgraceful and dishonest. The wording of the Good Friday Agreement lets underhanded use of “Petition of Concern” but using it on a Bill that received Cross party and Cross community support takes away from the integrity and spirit of Stormont itself.
My question is: “Is there anything being done to stop this abuse of process in the future by unprincipled MLA’s?”
The Speaker received a valid Petition of Concern (in accordance with section 42 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Assembly’s Standing Order 28) relating to the Local Government (Disqualification) Bill on the 6th of December 2010. These provisions relate to a vote on any matter and therefore the presentation of a petition of concern in this case was in order.
What is a Petition of Concern?
A notice signed by at least 30 MLAs, and presented to the Speaker, expressing concern about a matter, usually in respect of a motion before the Assembly. No vote may be held on the matter until at least one day after the petition has been presented and the issue can then only be passed if it achieves cross-community support.
Learn more about this Standing Order.

NI Water Debacle

A reader submitted the following:

There are surely a number of people in the firing line in the current NI water debacle. While the senior management are rightly responsible for the response and communication issues, I certainly believe that as a public body NI Water should have emergency and contingency planning.
Where is the ministerial input in this as this has failed?
Also for short term popularity the Assembly has deferred water charges affecting infrastructure upgrades. For this the Assembly Members who voted for this delay are surely to blame.
Also why has it taken until 30th December for an emergency session at Stormont while citizens have been in dire need for over a week?

Just to clarify, the session the reader refers to was actually a meeting of the Executive and not the NI Assembly.

The Regional Development Committee (which undertakes a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department for Regional Development) will meet on Thursday 6 January 2011 to be “briefed from the Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Water on the handling of severe winter weather conditions and ongoing supply issues”.  Find out more at http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/