MLAs Clash Over Prioritising NI’s Budget

When the question of the economy was raised in Lisburn, MLAs had very differing views over what was needed for Northern Ireland. Edwin Poots spoke of how cuts in departments were needed from Northern Ireland’s budget but ‘no Ministers have come forward with ideas to identify those cuts.’ He also spoke of his thanks of how the Assembly’s first priority upon restoration was the economy and how this has paid off.
Alban Maginness agreed with the person proposing the question saying;
“This is the worst financial and economic crisis in two or three generations. The fact is that this budget that we have has to be re-profiled.”

Do you agree with Alban Maginness that the Minister’s inflexibility on the budget will be detrimental in the next few years? Or do you feel that the initial move to prioritise the economy was and is the right thing to do?

Are Assembly Committees Effective?

The effectiveness of the Assembly’s Committee system was questioned in Lisburn as one audience member suggested their role was debatable as all the power seems to be with the departments. Basil McCrea agreed to an extent saying that in a Committee, ‘we can advise, we can inform, we can discuss, but ultimately the executive power rests with the Minister’.
Alban Maginness rued the fact that Committee Members never divested themselves of party views for the greater good of a Committee.
David Ford disagreed with Alban Maginness. As a member of the Environment Committee, Mr. Ford suggested that his Committee collectively often defies the Minister for Environment.

Some of our panel members suggested that Alban Maginness was being very pessimistic when suggesting that party politics stands in the way of Committee effectiveness. Do you agree with Mr. Maginness or do you think that Committee’s play an important role in legislating?

NI Politics: Are We Moving Beyond Traditional Issues?

The age-old question of Northern Ireland politics was also raised in Lisburn: whether the constitutional divide is the main thrust of politicians’ agendas and if people are beginning to move on to other issues. Sinn Fein’s Paul Butler said that it had been about that ‘up until now’. He went to say that; “The next Assembly elections in 2011 won’t be about the peace process, or republican politics or unionist politics. It’s going to be about bread and butter issues and what the Executive and the Assembly have done over the last four years.”
The panel was keen to point out that most work carried out was in relation to ‘bread and butter’ issues and that those are the issues they will be judged on.

When you think of local politics, do you simply think of what divides our parties? Or do you feel that your MLAs do a good job on the more general issues of education, equality, disability etc?

What’s The Difference Between The Assembly And The Executive?

Northern Ireland’s government and the systems often attract confusion and misunderstanding. The panel in Lisburn did their best to clear this up after one audience member enquired about the differences between the Executive and the Assembly..
Paul Butler said: “The Executive is a decision making body made up of Ministers and the Assembly is all 108 of us (MLAs) debating and scrutinising legislation.”
David Ford added: “The Executive is where the power is and the Assembly is where the scrutiny is supposed to happen.”

What do you know about the processes of NI’s government? Do you think that the terms used could be clearer?

Show Of Hands Gives Approval For Devolution

The host of the Roadshow turned the tables as he questioned the audience. Eamonn Mallie asked:
“Against the background of the recent unity of the Chief Constable, the First Minister and deputy first Minister and Massareene and Lurgan, what’s your opinion? Do you believe that devolution is a good thing for the people of Northern Ireland?”
There seemed to be a majority of people in the audience who felt that progress during devolution had been made.

What do you think? Has devolution been positive or negative for you?

What Are The Assembly Doing To Encourage Women In Politics?

Why aren’t there more women in the Assembly was the question in Lisburn from one audience member. Host Eamonn Mallie further pressed the panel when he revealed that so far, not one woman had participated on a Roadshow panel.
Alban Maginness said: “We encourage women throughout the party and it’s very important for us to increase the number of women representatives at MLA level.”
Edwin Poots agreed with the original question saying: “I would accept that there are not enough women in the Assembly but that’s reflective of the makeup of these panels either.”

What do you think the Assembly should do to increase the number of female MLAs? Do you think things would run differently if there were more women in positions of power within government?

Differing Opinions Over PMS Savers Getting Money Back

The Presbyterian Mutual Society has been one of the major topics of concern for local people. When the question was asked if the savers would get their money back, the answers from the panel weren’t encouraging. Edwin Poots thought that the money could be returned due to the sound financial investments made by the PMS but he thought it would be a matter of years before everything was rectified.
Basil McCrea was less optimistic and suggested that there would be difficulties. He said, “Even if eventually, there is the prospect of getting some money back, it will not be for a considerable time and there will definitely be losses,”
The panel did express their disappointment that somewhere like Northern Ireland has ‘fallen through the cracks’ and suggested that if it was somewhere in England then circumstances would be different and the government would have done more.

Pessimism was prevalent across the panel with regards PMS members regaining their savings. Is this something that has affected you? Share your thoughts with us here.